Friday, March 11, 2011

In the Woods - Discussion # 2

Welcome back to the 2nd discussion over In the Woods by Tana French. This discussion covers from chapter 7 through the end of chapter 11, but anything from the beginning of the book til chapter 12 is fine. Spoilers should be expected. Anyone and everyone is welcome.

My thoughts
I really liked how these chapters picked up a bit and we got more into the investigation. It's quite scary how downhill Detective Ryan's mind seems to be going as he gets further into the investigation and it still irks me that he hasn't said anything nor has anyone outed him. Bad for business. Also, I am not impressed that he keeps some things from his talk with Rosalind from Cassie. It's like he is trying to protect Rosalind by not revealing her crazy. Cassie also seems to be keeping some things from Ryan, which is probably good since his mental capacity is so iffy.

Lines I Liked
pg. 320 "Want to read my door-to-door reports for me instead? O' Gorman structures sentences like George Bush; most of the time I haven't a clue what he's on about."

pg. 382 "Strange though it may seem, I had only just understood up there on the stand with the flare of panic in MacSharry's eyes, that I was falling apart. I hadn't been aware that I was sleeping less than usual and drinking more, that I was snappy and distracted and possibly sort of seeing things but no specific incident had seemed particularly ominous or alarming in itself."

From the Author [ Source ]
Q. To tell the story of In the Woods, you have transgendered your voice; you speak to us through the male persona of Rob Ryan. Why did you opt for a male narrator, and did you encounter any particular challenges in adopting a masculine perspective?
Almost as soon as I thought of the basic premise of the book, the character of Rob Ryan came into my head: intelligent, sarcastic, secretive, proud, too badly damaged to be honest either with himself or with his readers—and male. It was never a conscious choice; that's just how he popped up.

I didn't run into any particular difficulties to do with writing from a male perspective. I've always had a lot of good male friends, which may have helped. What was much more difficult was writing from the perspective of someone as deeply messed up as Rob Ryan. His friends' disappearance and his loss of memory have sent cracks straight across his mind: he's unable to trust anything either around him or within him. At the point when the book begins, he's more or less functional ñ good at his job, sustaining at least one close friendship, basically happy—but as the case draws him back towards his past, those cracks widen and his mind starts to disintegrate. Trying to see the events of the book from that increasingly skewed perspective was an immense challenge.
Q. American readers who have a quaint vision of Ireland as a place of Old World traditions may be surprised to find that many of the cultural references in your novel come from distinctly American sources like The Simpsons and Sex and the City. Any comments on the prominence of these Americanisms, either in your writing or in Irish life itself?
There's always been a huge amount of cultural interplay between the United States and Ireland. For a long time now, it's been very difficult to write truthfully about Ireland without including some American cultural references—for people my parents' age, for example, watching cowboy films or dancing to Elvis were often defining experiences. The Irish historically have had an enormous appetite for every form of culture, and such a small country can't produce enough to meet that demand, so people here soak up American TV shows, films, books, and music. Transposed into an Irish context, those become part of our culture, too—they become part of that interplay. Take The Commitments: Roddy Doyle transposed very American music to a Dublin context to create an intensely Irish book, which then went back to America both in book form and in movie form.
I think it's probably impossible to have satellite TV and the Internet and still be quaint and Old World; that demands a level of cultural isolation that just doesn't exist here. When I referenced The Simpsons, for example, I wasn't even thinking of it as an American reference, because it's omnipresent here as well: everyone's watched it, everyone knows it, its catchphrases have become part of the language. The reality of Irish culture today is that it's not wholly indigenous; it's a fusion of homegrown elements and imported stuff, and it's all the richer for that.

Questions from Penguin
1. How does Ryan's experience In the Woods at the age of twelve affect his ability to function as a detective? Is it always a hindrance to him, or are there ways in which it improves and deepens his insights?

2. The plan to build the new motorway, trampling as it does on a past that some regard as sacred, is an outrage to the archaeologists who are trying to preserve an ancient legacy. How does this conflict fit thematically with Ryan's own contradictory desires to unearth and to pave over his past?

Questions from me
3. So far in your reading, who do you think killed Katharine Devlin?

4. What do you think happened to Detective Ryan and his friends in the Wood all those years ago?

Thanks for once again participating in a group read discussion! Our third discussion on In the Woods will take place next Friday and will cover Chapter 12 through the end of Chapter 19.