Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Required Reading

"The Jungle" was our Novella group's Bonus Winter Novel for 2012.  We met at Resi's and had the place to ourselves to discuss the book.  I believe that we agreed that if you live in Chicago you need to read this book.  I also think it should be required reading for politicians.  Most of the issues that Jurgis and his relative face still exist today.  Housing scams, work slowdowns, low wages for dangerous work, using drugs to escape a hard life and the fear of losing your job.  Just when you think Jurgis can't sink any lower, or be taken advantage in yet another way, Upton Sinclair proves that, yes, there is still lower to go. 
The book was published in serial format when it was released in 1906.  Is that why Sinclair starts the story with a wedding?  To pull in the reader and start to show the cracks in the system.  Then Sinclair moves backwards to show the beginning of the move to the United States and the challenges faced by immigrants.

Thanks to all who came out on Sunday - it was a great time and a lively discussion.  I found it interesting to hear people's opinions about why Sinclair chose fiction over non-fiction to present this story.  And thanks to V. for sharing her very different immigrant experience - one that *almost* resulted in us calling her Wesley Snipes. 

If you have not read this book you should check it out.  It is a good one for book groups and makes you feel good to check a classic off the list.  Although you may have to visit Chicago in the Winter to feel some of the pain described in the book. 

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