HPN SF Book Club: A Canticle for Leibowitz (August)

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Postby deadwolfbones » Sun Aug 02, 2020 11:51 am

Image

Hey all, welcome to the first round of the resurrected HPN SF Book Club! This month we'll be reading a classic of post-apocalyptic fiction, Walter M. Miller's 1959 novel A Canticle for Leibowitz.

I'm not going to limit what people discuss in this thread, but please spoiler tag any plot-revealing points in discussion!

Since boarder guy forget suggested we read Canticle, I asked him to write a Criterion-style introduction essay. Here's what he had to say:

guy forget wrote:Webster’s Dictionary defines “Canticle” as “the layer of dead or hard skin around the base of a fingernail or toenail.” Which seems strange for a book not, at first glance, about fingernails. But while this might seem to be a mysterious title for a post-apocalyptic novel about religion, about the murky mutability of historical memory, and about the inevitability human folly, it’s actually quite fitting. Canticle is, at heart, a book about how human societies emerge, grow, and destroy themselves, only to reemerge and recreate structures of control and order after their own destruction – much as fingernails keep growing even after the destruction of the soul and death of the body itself. So, maybe Walter Miller was onto something! In Canticle, Miller imagines a world stubbornly rebuilding itself after its own death. It’s a story of cycles, and about the central question of contingency in human affairs: Is social suicide ingrained within human nature, or do humans have control over their destiny?

Walter Miller saw firsthand how humans could rain destruction on beauty of their own creation, serving as a tail gunner pilot during World War II on several dozen bombing missions over Italy, including the famous raids on the abbey at Monte Cassino. Miller carried this image of an isolated religious center of learning, an oasis of peace and humanity in a destroyed world marked by senseless violence, into what seemed to be the most likely future imagined by many young adults coming of age during the Cold War. For people of Miller’s age, entering adulthood under the specter of nuclear annihilation, the most pressing question was: do I have a future? Miller takes this thought experiment to its logical endpoint, imagining not just his future (seemingly his answer for himself was a definite “no”) but the future of all humanity at a time when technological apocalypse seemed imminent. A Canticle for Leibowitz is at once cautiously optimistic and deeply cynical. It’s an obviously personal book representing to Miller’s own experience during World War II and in Cold War America, while also aiming toward something like universality. And as the title implies: it’s a real nail biter! …Not really, but it is a very cool book, and one sure to provoke anxiety (and perhaps relief?) in our own anxious age.
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Postby Down n dirty rufus » Sun Aug 02, 2020 1:04 pm

I've wanted to read this forever. I have like 4 books going right now, what's one more??
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Postby jubjub » Sun Aug 02, 2020 1:18 pm

lets do it :rixx:
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Postby fury » Sun Aug 02, 2020 1:37 pm

I’m in! Haven’t read this one.
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Postby " the boyfriend" » Sun Aug 02, 2020 3:38 pm

so weird, I just put this in my backpack after finding it at the thrift store last week. I'm in.
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Postby deadwolfbones » Sun Aug 02, 2020 4:11 pm

Down n dirty rufus wrote:I've wanted to read this forever. I have like 4 books going right now, what's one more??


That's the spirit!
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Postby mooncalf » Sun Aug 02, 2020 5:01 pm

guy forget wrote:Webster’s Dictionary defines “Canticle” as “the layer of dead or hard skin around the base of a fingernail or toenail.”


Lol, A Cuticle for Leibowitz?

Any recommendation on how fast we should read and discuss? If I remember the book is broken into 3 sections. So like 1 section a week for 3 weeks and then general discussion the 4th? Or everyone just go at their own pace?

I last read this like 12 years ago and I'm excited to read again. I gave my wife a copy shortly after we first met and I don't think she ever read it, but I'm happy she still had her copy laying around so I'm ready to go :)
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Postby winjer » Sun Aug 02, 2020 7:01 pm

i haven’t read this in 20 years, but really loved it back then. if i can find my copy i’m down.
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Postby loaf angel » Sun Aug 02, 2020 7:13 pm

ok will read
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Postby endor holocaust » Sun Aug 02, 2020 11:37 pm

Thanks for pulling this together again. I didn’t finish the last club but discovered a few new favorites from it.
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Postby guy forget » Sun Aug 02, 2020 11:56 pm

mooncalf wrote:
guy forget wrote:Webster’s Dictionary defines “Canticle” as “the layer of dead or hard skin around the base of a fingernail or toenail.”


Lol, A Cuticle for Leibowitz?



it's spelled "canticle"
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Postby Milquetoaster Strudels » Mon Aug 03, 2020 12:43 am

That's...not what a canticle is
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Postby virile » Mon Aug 03, 2020 7:19 am

i have the 5th one in that picture! loved this book. think this is the first book that got me into post apocalyptic dystopic stuff and thinking about religion and stuff. very cool book.
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Postby normal forest » Mon Aug 03, 2020 7:29 am

Excited to read this book and also genuinely confused about whether the cuticle thing is a joke or a misunderstanding
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Postby virile » Mon Aug 03, 2020 7:45 am

it is the kinda joke i would make so i say joke
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Postby jefe górgory » Mon Aug 03, 2020 8:10 am

Let’s do it !
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Postby A-Ok » Mon Aug 03, 2020 8:21 am

virile wrote:i have the 5th one in that picture!


4
6
8
7
5
1
3
2
what you say goes and your sight beats everyone elses.
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Postby Milquetoaster Strudels » Mon Aug 03, 2020 12:46 pm

I just ordered a copy! Hopefully it will be here soon.
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Postby guy forget » Mon Aug 03, 2020 1:26 pm

I’m exactly one sentence in to the audiobook and immediately love this book again
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Postby guy forget » Mon Aug 03, 2020 1:27 pm

What a perfect way to introduce how familiar and also alien this world is
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Postby guy forget » Mon Aug 03, 2020 1:29 pm

A-Ok wrote:
virile wrote:i have the 5th one in that picture!


4
6
8
7
5
1
3
2


I like 7, 1 (what a weird picture!), and 3

2 is horrible
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Postby mooncalf » Mon Aug 03, 2020 1:33 pm

I'm reading 2 this time, read 4 last time. 2 does have a nice intro by Maria Doria Russell (The Sparrow would actually be an interesting SF book club entry) about how the novel may speak differently to you when you reread it at different points in your life.
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Postby Jeremy » Mon Aug 03, 2020 2:33 pm

Started on my break at work. Going to be impossible not to be mentally comparing it to Riddley Walker/The Memoirs of Guibert of Nogent the whole time.
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Postby deadwolfbones » Mon Aug 03, 2020 4:16 pm

mooncalf wrote:I'm reading 2 this time, read 4 last time. 2 does have a nice intro by Maria Doria Russell (The Sparrow would actually be an interesting SF book club entry) about how the novel may speak differently to you when you reread it at different points in your life.


We could def do The Sparrow. That one's a rough read.
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Postby Down n dirty rufus » Mon Aug 03, 2020 4:30 pm

Read the first chapter last night, v promising so far! I chose cover #1 for my kindle version
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Postby guy forget » Mon Aug 03, 2020 4:35 pm

This intro is very funny
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Postby virile » Mon Aug 03, 2020 4:36 pm

took me awhile but i finally found the cover for the original version my friend gave me i like it the best i think i gave this one to someone in china

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Postby messier object » Mon Aug 03, 2020 5:11 pm

yeah this has some of the best covers there are

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Postby joe » Tue Aug 04, 2020 2:17 am

post!
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Postby inmate » Tue Aug 04, 2020 2:44 am

post
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