Azad and I had finished the book, Francis was almost done, and Tashina & Al were both less than halfway through, but we decided to discuss the whole book and not worry about any spoilers. Francis and I both thought the book was very good, but Azad had a few reservations. He thought that the book was far too long for the content and thought that the time spent describing the Los Angeles area was too boring, but thought that it might have made a good short story. On the other hand, I thought that the time spent describing the area, Rupen's family life and his life with his friends in the park was necessary to building an understanding of what Rupen had to lose if his "secret" were exposed. He was living a secure, comfortable life. If he were to lose his friends and family he would have nothing left.
We all made reference to the focus on the duduk in the story. I referred to Andy Ylitalo's presentation on the duduk at Armenia Fest and how his description of its history, of how it was made and of how it was played helped me to understand those sections in the book that talked about the duduk. Andy's playing plus an hour or two of Gasparian playing in the background while reading brought the emotional aspect of duduk music out. (Francis and Andrea by email also made reference to listening to Gasparian.)
We seemed to agree that having a Turk living his life pretending to be an Armenian was an unusual plot twist. We only spent a little time discussing Rupen's life after the genocide until he got to Glendale. Azad thought that his being circumcised might have been a reason for his having been kicked out of St. Lazarus.
I thought that Haik blackmailing Rupen actually ended up being beneficial to both of their lives. Rupen "woke up" and started doing things that he never would have done otherwise and, so, had some unusual experiences in his last few months of life. Haik acted on his baser instincts to do the blackmailing, gained a lot in the short term, lost it all, but then gained a lot of it back in the end along with some public recognition of his artistic talent.
Andrea included the following paragraph in her summary of the book that she sent to the group: "I enjoyed the book immensely. How Rupen changed his identity and kept it secret - out of his love for the duduk.... How his family had to come to terms with his secret once it was indulged, and how his elderly woman friend could not.... (My gosh, he was only an innocent, unsuspecting seven year old when the tragedy in his village happened!) How Armenians are indelibly stamped by the Genocide. How the author, representing the younger generation, plays with identity and seemingly asks: what makes one Armenian? An interesting question would be: was Rupen's soul Armenian?"
Sideline discussions this month included comments on Germany's colony in Namibia and their genocide of the Hereros before World War I. There was also mention of Germany's consideration of sending all of its Jews to Madagascar before World War II.
Tashina talked about her time spent in Armenia. We talked about the quantities of food that Armenians always put out when guests visit. Azad compared the way that hospitality is different in the U.S. than in the Middle East, that people in the U.S. don't pay as much attention to guests.
Francis made reference to a quote that when the performer, the composer and the duduk all come together it's perfection.
A few books were discussed for future consideration:
"Three Apples Fell From Heaven", a collection of Armenian Folk Tales and Fairy Tales
"The Great American Loneliness" by Peter Najarian
For next month, we'll be reading and discussing "The Fool" by Raffi, which Azad calls a masterpiece.
For January, the book will be "Bluebeard" by Kurt Vonnegut (yes, there's an Armenian connection.)
I hope to see you at next month's meeting on Thursday, December 15th, at 7:00 PM at St. Sahag.