“There Are Eight Million Stories in the Naked City…”
Posted by: Neil Hollands
“…This has been one of them.”
That’s the famous line that concludes the narration of the noir classic, The Naked City, and it came to mind twice recently. The first was when I came across a recent post on Flavorwire that identified ten books that star cities. It’s a list with mostly unexpected, recent choices that you might find intriguing.
The second time I though of the many stories that can be generated by a city (or a country, state, or other locale) was when our staff book group at Williamsburg Regional Library took on Paris as its theme for this month’s reading. I won’t recap the meeting as I often do. I wrote about Paris books in a post about A Moveable Feast at Blogging for a Good Book, and the nature of the books we chose for this meeting–out-of-print histories, children’s books, and various kinds of light reading–made them enjoyable, but perhaps not prime focus for typical book groups.
But then that’s the joy of thematic book grouping. As Gary noted here earlier this week, a strong setting doesn’t necessarily create much to talk about in a single-book meeting. But when that setting becomes the theme for the meeting, and readers highlight several books, it creates a kind of mosaic that can begin to replicate the many aspects of any given locale. The variety of books that come to thematic meetings ensures that nobody goes home without jotting down a few titles they would like to try later.
Since we’re neck deep in Mystery Month coverage for May, I’ll also note that the thematic approach works well for genre fiction. Genre books are often heavy on plot, short on the kind of everyday human conflict that makes books easy to discuss. It doesn’t mean they aren’t great books, but you can’t follow the model of a literary seminar: you’ll run out of things to analyze too quickly. Still, people love to read these books, and they’re very well suited to five-minute “teaser” talks, which makes the thematic approach the ideal way to feature them.
You probably won’t get through eight million stories in your thematic meeting. But getting through eight is a good start.