Discussion Forums - September Hot Topics

Topic: Begin discussion of Big Stone Gap

Club rule - Please, if you cannot be courteous and respectful, do not post in this forum.
Page:   Unlock Forum posting with Annual Membership.
Subject: Begin discussion of Big Stone Gap
Date Posted: 7/1/2012 4:14 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2005
Posts: 20,024
Back To Top
1. Why do you think the author set Big Stone Gap in the 1970's instead of today? It felt sort of like she was telling the story of someone she knew so she set it during the time it happened. She doesn't seem very well versed in the time period though, I can't remember anything specific but I recall coming across several phrases and thinking they wouldn't use that phrase then.
Date Posted: 7/1/2012 4:56 PM ET
Member Since: 11/14/2009
Posts: 6,701
Back To Top

Keeping in mind that there are several books to this series, I presume she wanted to show the time span of this woman's life.  It was sort of weird that they didn't have computers or cell phones.

Barb S. (okbye) - ,
Date Posted: 7/1/2012 5:18 PM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2011
Posts: 5,767
Back To Top

My copy had quite a bit of stuff after the book was over, an interview with the author, questions, and the first chapter of the next book. I didn't read the chapter, I don't intend to get the next book, but the blurb did say it takes place 8 years in the future. So if there are couple after that she does need some time. Plus under her picture on the back cover it says she lived there in the 70's, she was just writing what she knew. I skimmed the interview which was done by Ida Lou, or whatever her name was. She's a real person and that's her real name, same with some of the other characters. I think she basically created a couple of principal characters (she said they were amalgums of real people) and stuck them right into a chapter of her life. Sounds kinda easy to me, lol. 

I'm old, I lived most of my life without computers and cell phones. It didn't seem weird to me but I was thinking during the mine rescue how much easier cell phones would have made it. 



Last Edited on: 7/1/12 5:20 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/1/2012 6:28 PM ET
Member Since: 7/10/2011
Posts: 2,353
Back To Top

The story would have been different if it was done today with our current level of technology.  Ave would have jumped onto the internet to do her research instead of having the genealogy guys from the Mormon church do it.  She would have made her own travel arrangements instead of finding Gala, and therefore would not have been surprised by her Italian family coming to town.  Jack would have needed some other way to show how he cared.  Ave might have even contacted her biological father over the internet too.  In the 1970s we didn’t have computers or cell phones, and that would have made a difference in the story.
 

Date Posted: 7/1/2012 6:29 PM ET
Member Since: 11/14/2009
Posts: 6,701
Back To Top

 I am coming up to 56 yrs old and I took  high school math with a slide rule, so I don't mean to say it I don't understand a time without technology, it just struck me funny.  That plus I think becoming a pharmacist now a days is 6 or 7 years.    

Date Posted: 7/1/2012 7:01 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2005
Posts: 20,024
Back To Top
Oh I didn't realize she was alive in the 70s I thought she was the same age as me. Carole you make a good point the story couldn't have happened the way it did if it took place now.
Barb S. (okbye) - ,
Date Posted: 7/1/2012 8:54 PM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2011
Posts: 5,767
Back To Top

I looked a lot harder than I should have had to and I cannot find anything that says how old this woman is. Not wiki, not her publisher's profile, no articles, no writer's spotlights. It's a secret! She was a writer on The Cosby Show after college staring in 1988 and she said her grandparent's story starts in 1905 and her grandfather was making films starting in 1935. That makes her grandparents older than mine by over 10 years, my grandma was born in 1918, but I can't find any indication of how long after college she started in tv. I would say she's close to my age, I graduated high school in 82 and assuming 2 years of college for a writing career that puts her at a maximum of 4 years younger than me and I'm 47. Either her pictures are old or she sure doesn't look it though. 

Found it the sneaky way, through her college. She's 44. 



Last Edited on: 7/1/12 9:03 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/1/2012 10:30 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2005
Posts: 20,024
Back To Top

Another big thing, this book was published in '03, I was thinking it had been written a lot later than it had. I had all kinds of misconceptions about this book.

Date Posted: 7/3/2012 1:30 AM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2005
Posts: 20,024
Back To Top

2. The coal mines are the site of danger and oppressiveness, while the caverns Ave Maria and Theodore visit reveal the beauty hidden deep in the earth. How does this dichotomy reflect Ave Maria's inner world during her yearlong crisis?

I got nothing for this one, the only thing I can come up with is that the caverns symbolize a safe bet with Teddy (that's my nickname for him) and the mines are a unknown quantity with whats-his-name.

Date Posted: 7/3/2012 10:09 AM ET
Member Since: 11/14/2009
Posts: 6,701
Back To Top

I hate to admit I never saw this connection.   Maybe coal mines were more common and real, as her life was, and the lovely cavern was more fantastical as was her relationship with Ted?   I just made that up.

Date Posted: 7/3/2012 10:12 AM ET
Member Since: 5/29/2007
Posts: 817
Back To Top

Nice Deb :-)

Barb S. (okbye) - ,
Date Posted: 7/3/2012 12:19 PM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2011
Posts: 5,767
Back To Top

I don't ever make those kind of symbolic connections. I don't and wouldn't want to analyze a book that deeply while reading it and it doesn't occur to me naturally, symbolism is usually lost on me. I also doubt very many writers are that good at it that every book has some in it like their publishers seem to think they do. I think in this case it's quite a stretch. 

Date Posted: 7/3/2012 5:02 PM ET
Member Since: 7/10/2011
Posts: 2,353
Back To Top

I had to think about this one quite a bit.  Dark and oppressive thoughts haunt Ave as she tries to deal with her mother’s death and the revelations from the letter.  I know just how hard this can be, just to deal with the death alone without any surprises.  Ave’s behavior and lack of focus hit a little too close to home for me, and I recognized the signs of a severe depression before the book named it as such.  I went through a lot of the same thing after the death of my mother.  The coal mines reflect that part.  The beauty in the cavern, especially the new discovery of the lavender sand reflected Ave’s coming out of her indecision and setting a new course for her life. 

Date Posted: 7/3/2012 6:30 PM ET
Member Since: 11/14/2009
Posts: 6,701
Back To Top

Carole, that is impressive.

 

Okbye    Reminds me of something I once saw  about the English teacher saying,   "The author used blue curtains in the kitchen because they reflected his depression.'   The author replies, 'They reflected that I just F***** like blue curtains.'

Date Posted: 7/4/2012 8:51 AM ET
Member Since: 7/10/2011
Posts: 2,353
Back To Top

Deb, that is hilarious!!  And most of the time true!

Barb S. (okbye) - ,
Date Posted: 7/4/2012 10:48 AM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2011
Posts: 5,767
Back To Top

Exactly Deb. "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar" I think it's more like most times though. 

Date Posted: 7/4/2012 11:31 AM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2005
Posts: 20,024
Back To Top

I agree most of the time there isn't as much symbolism as in depth readers assume. If we ever end up reading Wicked though, that book is full of it.

Date Posted: 7/4/2012 10:50 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2005
Posts: 20,024
Back To Top

3. As the novel progresses and Ave Maria learns more about herself and her past, her feelings for Big Stone Gap change from contentment to disassociation to joy. Have your feelings for your hometown changed as you've changed? How?

As I've gotten older I've come to think of the town I live in as home. Before, when I was younger Chicago was home because that is where I'm from and it seemed more exciting. Now I don't want an exciting place to live I want calm and easy going.

Barb S. (okbye) - ,
Date Posted: 7/5/2012 2:23 AM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2011
Posts: 5,767
Back To Top

I grew up one place until I was 13 then moved to a very different place and have lived here since, so I have kind of a split home town feeling. Both places have changed drastically and I'm not sure I've changed that much. My original home town has changed so much it's unrecognizable, it was a tiny village, now it's a regular town with a grocery store and everything! We used to have to go two towns over for a regular grocery store, all we had was a 5 & dime and a liquor store. It was settled by the Swiss and the stores and buildings had a Swiss theme, it was really cute. That's gone. I have spent very little time back there, mostly just a drive through when visiting relatives. It's just completely different, the place I grew up doesn't exist anymore. When I lived there is seemed small and behind the times, now it's modern. My second home town doesn't exist anymore either. We moved to Phoenix in 1979 and it was still very much the last vestige of the wild west. I finally got the horse I was dying for and took him to school for "show and tell" in vocational agriculture. Country music and cowboy hats were the norm, and the people who wore them were cowboys not just making a fashion statement. Well it's been 30+ years in the fastest growing city in the country for over 20 years and it's now the 5th largest city in the US. On the outskirts you'll still find a few cowboys and you have the rich fancy horse people in Scottsdale but the wild west has truly died. There was a bar less than 2 miles from my house that was 2 levels, rock downstairs and country up. They had bull riding contests 2 times a week, real bulls out in the yard, that could stomp on the men riding them of they got them off their backs. They closed about 6 years ago, that's how much west still existed in the city even as short a time ago as that. I miss the old city. It's just too crowded and busy now, I don't like it anymore. So both of my hometowns have grown and become just like everywhere else and are not unique or special anymore and I miss the old ones. I am that small town person still but my small towns went away. 

Date Posted: 7/5/2012 7:38 AM ET
Member Since: 7/10/2011
Posts: 2,353
Back To Top

I still have the idealized image of my hometown, I haven't been back there in so many years that I don't know what it is like now.

Date Posted: 7/5/2012 3:04 PM ET
Member Since: 11/14/2009
Posts: 6,701
Back To Top

I've always lived in a suburb of St. Paul, MN.  In general though things have changed.   I remember when all stores closed at 5pm on Saturday and if you didn't have milk or something you went without until Monday.  At first we thought it was blasphemy when stores opened on Sunday, now it is no big deal.   Everything evolves over time.  As do our bodies.  We age, get wrinkles and if we choose to we get cosmetic treatments.  (This just came to me because I had a $2 coupon for Garnier  wrinkle cream.  I used it too on a moisturizer.)

Date Posted: 7/5/2012 7:34 PM ET
Member Since: 5/29/2007
Posts: 817
Back To Top

When I was growing up I couldn't wait to get out of my hometown. I married my highschool sweetheart who joined the Army and we were out of there.

Getting older gave me a different view on my hometown. We have since moved back now that my husband is retired and I can't imagine calling any place else home. I think your perspective changes as you get older, things that were so important when you were 20 seem so trivial now that you are older.

Date Posted: 7/6/2012 2:03 AM ET
Member Since: 2/12/2007
Posts: 23,861
Back To Top

I am out of town at a convention.  I will only answer the hometown question.

 

I grew up in Flint/Burton Michigan.   The last two years, before I moved away for college, age 15-17, we lived in Lennon, Michigan.  I didnt want to stay in Michigan,  I wanted to get away from many things: the shop rat life,  the long winters, and I kinda think my past.  Sometimes when I go back to visit, I miss the green trees, and green everything.   I dont think it is a state, that I long for really.   Even when I was young the shops were closing, and unemployment was high.  This is still going on.

 

I have lived in Phoenix, since 1988.  We left for 2 years 1991-1993 and tried New Hampshire,  that is a state I long for.  I loved it.  The winters were long, but I loved the fall leaves.  Phoenix has so much to offer, that I am pretty happy here.  I love that I can drive 1 mile from my house and I can hike in the desert mountain preserve.  I love that I can find a grocery store just about anywhere.  I love the winter weather.  Sometimes i think I would prefer part of AZ that isnt so hot in the summer.



Last Edited on: 7/6/12 2:06 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/7/2012 10:43 AM ET
Member Since: 11/12/2011
Posts: 473
Back To Top

Playing catch up...

1. Why do you think the author set Big Stone Gap in the 1970's instead of today?

For the same reason that Ave Maria has to meet her father before she can meet a husband. Her past is too big of issue to be ignored and it was natural for both the character and author to start in the past. It seems like the author intended to write a series with all the loose ends she worked in - the promises to visit Italy every summer, the birth of the daughter, etc. The 1970s setting became obvious whenever they refered to the fashion and make-up trends and, primarily, in  the Elizabeth Taylor scene. The lack of cellphones and internet didn't date the story for me. I grew up in a rural small town where even today plenty of folks choose not to use cellpones or computers. (Or if they do, it's very reluctantly.)



Last Edited on: 7/7/12 12:33 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 7/7/2012 11:06 AM ET
Member Since: 11/12/2011
Posts: 473
Back To Top

2. The coal mines are the site of danger and oppressiveness, while the caverns Ave Maria and Theodore visit reveal the beauty hidden deep in the earth. How does this dichotomy reflect Ave Maria's inner world during her yearlong crisis?

I hadn't thought about comparing the two settings, but I did like her description of the cave guide, Ray (?), and what it was like making return trips to the caves. The caves reveals itself at different times (the lavendar sand) but it's up to a person to find the changes. I thought it was a good analogy of how a inner emotions work: waiting within to bubble up or be discovered. Strong emotions live within us even if we aren't ready to embrace or deal with them.  I was also  very glad that Ave's and Theo's trips to the cave were an already established habit. It was nice to learn something that wasn't presented as a shock or a surprise. Maybe the coal mines, and Ave's unfamiliarity with them, reflect more about Jack's character than hers.



Last Edited on: 7/7/12 12:31 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Page: