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Thread: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

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    Coachella Junkie SoulDischarge's Avatar
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    Default Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    If you want to chime in and let us know you're reading along, that'd be nice. Or you can just read and lurk.

    Here's the schedule for when you should be done with each chapter and at which point it will be discussed. Feel free to read ahead, but don't mention anything past where the group is at for whatever date.
    Sun 2/5: Chapter 1
    Tues 2/7: Chapter 2
    Thurs 2/9: Chapter 3
    Sat 2/11: Chapter 4
    Mon 2/13: Chapter 5
    Weds 2/15: Chapters 6 & 7 (finish the novel)
    Quote Originally Posted by guedita View Post
    Thanks for giving us the opportunity to not give a fuck again.

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    Coachella Junkie Alchemy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    I have my copy! I don't know if I'll have chapter 1 or 2 read in time, but I'm sure I'll be caught up for the chapter 3 discussion.
    Quote Originally Posted by canexplain View Post
    I try to be politically pc more than most here: As a dude, anyone who could put a shark up a gals pc body, is pretty creepy, different and interesting. Just saying big time ..... cr****

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    Member Newro7ic's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    My copy is in the mail, but I will catch up when it arrives and join the discussions.
    Quote Originally Posted by bmack86 View Post
    Women just obviously can't write creative music. They're all ripping off the Beatles, who were men. Duh.

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    old school JorgeC's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    Just got back from buying my copy. i'll check back in on Sunday for some Chapter 1 discussion.
    Quote Originally Posted by guedita View Post
    Which healthcare provider will euthanize you the fastest as a service to society?
    8/2&3 HARD Summer - 8/7 Arctic Monkeys@Staples - 8/8 Cut Copy@Brooklyn Bowl - 8/22 NIN@Verizon - 8/23&24 FYF Fest - 9/2 Bear in Heaven@Echoplex - 9/4 Phantogram@Fox Pomona - 9/6 Atmosphere@Palladium - 9/10 Britney Spears - 10/8 Gus Gus@Roxy - 10/10 Twin Shadow@Glass House

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    Coachella Junkie fatbastard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    Fuck you to the lazy person who checked out the audio version of this book at Central Library this week. I’m even lazier than you and found that it had already been checked out yesterday.
    Whiskey Sour

    2 oz blended whiskey
    Juice of 1/2 lemon
    1/2 tsp powdered sugar
    1 cherry
    1/2 slice lemon

    Shake blended whiskey, juice of lemon, and powdered sugar with ice and strain into a whiskey sour glass. Decorate with the half-slice of lemon, top with the cherry, and serve.

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    old school RageAgainstTheAoki's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    My amazon shipment turned out to be a surprise gift from a friend, not my copy of Pnin. Looks like my copy isn't due to arrive until Tuesday, but I'll get caught up as soon as I get it.

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    old school JorgeC's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    Going into this completely blind. Never heard of the book or the author; English was actually my least favorite subject in school, that and history. Anyhow, just trusting that my fellow boardies will help me expand my horizons on the bookfront as I read mostly comic books and fantasy

    Just finished the first chapter. As fussy/crazy (hypochondriac?) as Pnin seems to be, why wouldn't he go to a hospital if he just had a seizure? Maybe he gets these on a regular basis? The visions of people from his past as he goes up to give his talk makes me wonder if they are the after effects of the strike/seizure or if there's something else up the authors sleeve.

    Quick questions. How do you pronounce Pnin? Pee-nin? Poo-nin?
    Also, the narrator is Pnin's doctor? When I first read "doctor" my mind went to "physician" but as I think about it, could be his shrink.
    Quote Originally Posted by guedita View Post
    Which healthcare provider will euthanize you the fastest as a service to society?
    8/2&3 HARD Summer - 8/7 Arctic Monkeys@Staples - 8/8 Cut Copy@Brooklyn Bowl - 8/22 NIN@Verizon - 8/23&24 FYF Fest - 9/2 Bear in Heaven@Echoplex - 9/4 Phantogram@Fox Pomona - 9/6 Atmosphere@Palladium - 9/10 Britney Spears - 10/8 Gus Gus@Roxy - 10/10 Twin Shadow@Glass House

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    LOLocaust Survivor Hannahrain's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    From the cyrillic I assume that it's "Pneen," with as little space as possible between the P and N so they are almost one sound. It's easier to say with a softer, almost voiceless/breathless P and a harder N.

    He doesn't seem like someone who would go to the doctor all the time to me. Sort of absentminded and...shabby?

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    old school JorgeC's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    Thanks Hannah.

    Absentminded and shabby. I'll take that into consideration. I was probably more focused on his pre-US wardrobe where he couldn't even be seen without a tie. I totally pictured a Tim Gunn-like guy opening the door when they came to collect his rent.
    Quote Originally Posted by guedita View Post
    Which healthcare provider will euthanize you the fastest as a service to society?
    8/2&3 HARD Summer - 8/7 Arctic Monkeys@Staples - 8/8 Cut Copy@Brooklyn Bowl - 8/22 NIN@Verizon - 8/23&24 FYF Fest - 9/2 Bear in Heaven@Echoplex - 9/4 Phantogram@Fox Pomona - 9/6 Atmosphere@Palladium - 9/10 Britney Spears - 10/8 Gus Gus@Roxy - 10/10 Twin Shadow@Glass House

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    zeezus amyzzz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    This novel is more advanced than I have been used to lately. I read chapter 1, but I think I may need to re-read it more carefully. I did not realize that the narrator is his doctor.
    Quote Originally Posted by guedita View Post
    Because fucking millenials that's what

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    old school JorgeC's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    Quote Originally Posted by amyzzz View Post
    This novel is more advanced than I have been used to lately. I read chapter 1, but I think I may need to re-read it more carefully. I did not realize that the narrator is his doctor.
    I believe it was revealed closer to the end of the chapter. Wooo, i'm glad i'm not the only one that feels this is more advanced than i'm used to, but also glad we're challenging ourselves.
    Quote Originally Posted by guedita View Post
    Which healthcare provider will euthanize you the fastest as a service to society?
    8/2&3 HARD Summer - 8/7 Arctic Monkeys@Staples - 8/8 Cut Copy@Brooklyn Bowl - 8/22 NIN@Verizon - 8/23&24 FYF Fest - 9/2 Bear in Heaven@Echoplex - 9/4 Phantogram@Fox Pomona - 9/6 Atmosphere@Palladium - 9/10 Britney Spears - 10/8 Gus Gus@Roxy - 10/10 Twin Shadow@Glass House

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    Coachella Junkie algunz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    I found it interesting how when he was having his "seizure," he equated death with a sense of union, a communion. While I would think of death more as a separation. I never thought of it that way.

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    Coachella Junkie algunz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    With him having the near death experience, and the visions of lost people from his life during the seminar, and an almost disregard from people that he is in the same room with, it feels like maybe Pnin is already dead. Is this the original Sixth Sense?

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    old school JorgeC's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    i'm kinda bugged that the first chapter made such a big deal about him being on the wrong train. WHAT DOES IT MEAN???
    Quote Originally Posted by guedita View Post
    Which healthcare provider will euthanize you the fastest as a service to society?
    8/2&3 HARD Summer - 8/7 Arctic Monkeys@Staples - 8/8 Cut Copy@Brooklyn Bowl - 8/22 NIN@Verizon - 8/23&24 FYF Fest - 9/2 Bear in Heaven@Echoplex - 9/4 Phantogram@Fox Pomona - 9/6 Atmosphere@Palladium - 9/10 Britney Spears - 10/8 Gus Gus@Roxy - 10/10 Twin Shadow@Glass House

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    Coachella Junkie SoulDischarge's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    Nabokov's verbosity seems to be his greatest strength and weakness simultaneously for me. He comes up with some really exhilarating, charming turns of phrases, but his writing can also come off as unnecessarily obtuse. The only other non-Lolita book I've read a significant portion of was Bend Sinister, which had the same issues. All of his protagonists seem to be slightly obtuse academic types who are burdened with an abundance of intelligence that makes them largely unable to connect with the real world (and Pnin seems like another one of those so far), so in a sense, his writing does kind of work in favor of those characters, but it makes it kind of hard to get too emotionally invested occasionally. Chapter One seemed like a lot information thrown at the reader at once and not all of it seemed particularly important or meaningful. I do love things like "(flamboyant goon tie included)" and "He had a deep admiration for the zipper" though.
    Quote Originally Posted by guedita View Post
    Thanks for giving us the opportunity to not give a fuck again.

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    Coachella Junkie algunz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    I agree that he can be very wordy, but his words rarely seem to be completely superfluous. Somehow every little detail seems to reveal some important aspect of the character or reveal some foreshadowing of plot. But, I know I need to be careful too, because he almost forces you to read too much into it.

    The narrator wants you to make judgements on the protagonist, because in the long run it's usually about learning a little about yourself/humanity too.

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    Member Newro7ic's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    I'm not entirely sure it was a stroke, but maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention to that part. It seemed more likely that he was having a panic attack, and started to believe he was having a heart attack or stroke.

    My conclusion is that the main point of the chapter was to show what an absent minded individual Pnin could be/is. He's intelligent, but not nearly as intelligent as the people he is surrounded by, prone to panic and over thinking to the point that it makes me less intelligent than he actually could be. An underachiever who has somehow overachieved. Maybe that's not the best way to put it. Perhaps, a moderately intelligent person who has convinced the people around him that he is smarter than he actually is. He gets by on his charm, not because he is supremely charming, but because he is awkwardly charming and people want to help him.

    He is where he is, in spite of himself.

    That is my take, anyway.
    Quote Originally Posted by bmack86 View Post
    Women just obviously can't write creative music. They're all ripping off the Beatles, who were men. Duh.

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    zeezus amyzzz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    I wish my panic attacks were as psychedelic as his are.
    Quote Originally Posted by guedita View Post
    Because fucking millenials that's what

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    Coachella Junkie algunz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    Newro, is he really absent minded or is he too bogged down with tedious detail that he often misses the point?

    I sense Pnin is more in control than we give him credit for. He hasn't messed anything up yet and in just the first chapter he has come plenty close to really screwing many things up. "Harm is the norm." Yet, Pnin has managed to sneak by every time already.

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    Member Newro7ic's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    Quote Originally Posted by algunz View Post
    Newro, is he really absent minded or is he too bogged down with tedious detail that he often misses the point?

    I sense Pnin is more in control than we give him credit for. He hasn't messed anything up yet and in just the first chapter he has come plenty close to really screwing many things up. "Harm is the norm." Yet, Pnin has managed to sneak by every time already.
    Very much a possibility as well. But, his sneaking by has been achieved by the friendliness of others up to this point. This is only the first chapter, though.
    Quote Originally Posted by bmack86 View Post
    Women just obviously can't write creative music. They're all ripping off the Beatles, who were men. Duh.

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    old school JorgeC's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    Quote Originally Posted by SoulDischarge View Post
    Nabokov's verbosity seems to be his greatest strength and weakness simultaneously for me. He comes up with some really exhilarating, charming turns of phrases, but his writing can also come off as unnecessarily obtuse.
    I think this is what was challenging for me in the first chapter. I loved the language, but had to keep rereading sentences and sometimes whole paragraphs to ensure I wasn't missing something.

    I finished Chapter 2 and i have to say i liked it much more than the first. We got to know Pnin and his many eccentricities ("began Pnining the room"). I realized that I know people like him! He's socially awkward, but still a nice guy at heart. It's like he's borderline Asberger's (sic?) syndrome, where he was just kept talking about himself during the interview with his potential landlord. I chuckled a few times reading thru this chapter, my favorite during the dinner party where they were talking shit about ("impersonating") him while he was standing on the stairs holding a dirty cup and when I realized he was calling Joan "John". The revelation that he was married and his ex-wife came to see him to ask him such a bold (understatement...i could use a few no-so-nice words...) question really threw me for a loop.

    On a side note, does anyone work with people from other countries that are here on work visas or recently immigrated? I'm comparing a lot of what Pnin is going thru linguistically to the people I work with on a day-to-day basis. Use of the formal vs informal, awkward phrasing, etc.
    Quote Originally Posted by guedita View Post
    Which healthcare provider will euthanize you the fastest as a service to society?
    8/2&3 HARD Summer - 8/7 Arctic Monkeys@Staples - 8/8 Cut Copy@Brooklyn Bowl - 8/22 NIN@Verizon - 8/23&24 FYF Fest - 9/2 Bear in Heaven@Echoplex - 9/4 Phantogram@Fox Pomona - 9/6 Atmosphere@Palladium - 9/10 Britney Spears - 10/8 Gus Gus@Roxy - 10/10 Twin Shadow@Glass House

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    LOLocaust Survivor Hannahrain's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    Quote Originally Posted by algunz View Post
    ...too bogged down with tedious detail that he often misses the point?
    I definitely see him like this. Somebody who is very smart and focused when it comes to minutiae (like thinking he was saving twelve minutes) but tends not to see the bigger picture (the train schedule being out of date).

    i'm kinda bugged that the first chapter made such a big deal about him being on the wrong train. WHAT DOES IT MEAN???
    I think the train sequence was probably engineered (no pun intended) to introduce us to a particularly Pnin-y misstep as we get a feel for the character and also introduce the medical situation early on (and through that, allow us to travel back to his earlier life a bit). I haven't read chapter two yet, though, so you may have insight that I don't.

    On a side note, does anyone work with people from other countries that are here on work visas or recently immigrated? I'm comparing a lot of what Pnin is going thru linguistically to the people I work with on a day-to-day basis. Use of the formal vs informal, awkward phrasing, etc.
    I don't really work with a lot of immigrants other than a few professors, but I do study Russian and find it really interesting to see an intentionally contrived version of what I know I do all the time in his language. His broken English phrasing makes a lot of sense to me when I compare it with how the same thing would be said in Russian.
    Last edited by Hannahrain; 02-07-2012 at 08:49 AM.

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    old school JorgeC's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    "How much are you prepared to demand?" - i lol'd
    Quote Originally Posted by guedita View Post
    Which healthcare provider will euthanize you the fastest as a service to society?
    8/2&3 HARD Summer - 8/7 Arctic Monkeys@Staples - 8/8 Cut Copy@Brooklyn Bowl - 8/22 NIN@Verizon - 8/23&24 FYF Fest - 9/2 Bear in Heaven@Echoplex - 9/4 Phantogram@Fox Pomona - 9/6 Atmosphere@Palladium - 9/10 Britney Spears - 10/8 Gus Gus@Roxy - 10/10 Twin Shadow@Glass House

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    MENACING Courtney's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    I just read the first two chapters over the past hour so I could be up to speed with this thread and contribute, but I feel like I should probably go back and read things more carefully.

    I agree that the incident seemed more like a panic attack than a stroke or seizure. A sort of dramatization of the "life flashing before your eyes" idea, used as a narrative tool.

    Pnin seems like a very distinctly Nabokovian (can you say that?) character to me. He's the sort of typically quirky, scholarly older male who is destined to romantic tragedy. Although perhaps the tragedy part is more just Russian literature in general than Nabokov specifically.

    I also really enjoy how Nabokov sets up little jokes that get played out a chapter or two later. For example, when describing Pnin's peculiar acquisition of the English language, he notes progress through describing Pnin's fondness for lingustic turns of phrase such as "wishful thinking," "okey-dokey," and "to make a long story short." Then, later, he describes how Pnin introduces himself to Joan Clement by giving her a "curriculum vitae in a nutshell -- a coconut shell" that included Pnin rambling on about his upbringing and using the phrase "to make a long story short." The whole thing made me chuckle.

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    old school RageAgainstTheAoki's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    SPOILER ALERT. It's past midnight so I may reference chapter 3 below. Sorry for the length. Feel free to skip. It's just my first opportunity to contribute to the conversation.

    My copy arrived today. I read the first three chapters over an extended lunch break. I had taken some notes, but in a rather Pnin-esque fashion, I think I left them on my desk at work. This is my first experience with Nabokov. And, well, frankly I don't think I'll be rushing out to read another of his works anytime soon. Lolita, of course, remains on my 'to read' list, though. For reasons others have already articulated -- the verbosity (though charming phrases abound), Pnin himself being a bit dull and pathetic -- I'm finding myself mildly entertained, but hardly engrossed by the book. Since I left my notes at work, I'll have to go off of memory here, but these were some of the things which struck me or which are keeping me interested:


    • The most interesting aspect of the novel thus far is not Pnin or any of the supporting characters we've been introduced to at the college, but the narrator. I'm a bit puzzled by the style of the narration. The narrator is usually omniscient and describes the tiniest minutia of Pnin's day, like his encounter with a squirrel at the water fountain. But, then, a simple first-person phrase from the narrator reminds us that he is in fact Pnin's physician. This is pretty interesting to me and suggests many unresolved questions. Why is Pnin's physician telling us this story? What is his motivation? Is he the only narrator or will other voices pipe in with their thoughts on Pnin? Why and how does he know so much about Pnin's life? Does the physician play a significant role in Pnin's life or is he merely an observer? What does the physician think of Pnin? At times he appears to be quite sympathetic to our odd protagonist and at others he rather coldly exposes all of Pnin's social awkwardness and inability to relate to those around him. I also have to imagine that the novel must end in Pnin's death or severe illness. Why else are we hearing this story from the physician?

    • I haven't read ahead yet, but the arrival of Isabel at the end of chapter 3 makes me think something could develop between her and Pnin. There have been subtle clues throughout that while Pnin generally doesn't pay much attention to those around him, he does seem to note the figure of an attractive younger woman here and there -- in his class, in the library. Perhaps if something has gone something horribly wrong with Isabel's marriage, the two of them will be able to relate and connect? Pure speculation here.

    • Joan, his landlady, strikes me as a rather strong-willed woman who knows how to get what she wants without becoming overbearing or too authoritative. I love how her husband, Laurence, will make some angry declaration which his wife does not verbally contest, but somehow appears to overrule. It's quite comical and sly. For example, when Laurence finds out that Joan just spoke to Pnin on the phone about becoming their lodger, he says "Professor Pnin, by God! Well, I flatly refuse to have that freak in my house." And, then, half an hour later Joan was showing Pnin the room and shortly after he was moved in. I think the same thing happened with the party. I can't find the passage, but I think that Laurence said he'd have Pnin at his party over his dead body or something of that nature. And, of course, Pnin ended up crashing the party. That one was less Joan's doing, but still amusing. I think the same thing may have happened when it came to leaving the house vacant for Pnin and his ex to talk that afternoon. Laurence said he had no intention of leaving the house for Pnin's benefit and then, if I'm recalling correctly, there was no mention of Laurence's presence during the ex's visit, suggesting that he had in fact left the house.

    • I'm not smart enough to say what exactly it symbolizes, but water certainly seems to be a recurring theme. Joan and Pnin discuss the Turkish word for "water" during their first meeting. Pnin has that extended encounter with the squirrel at the water fountain -- even the squirrel seems to take no heed of him. The one I like the best is that when his ex-wife visits him and finally tells him the reason she wanted to connect was for child support, she told him that her husband and the biological father, described himself as the "land father" and Pnin as the "water father". A reference to their transatlantic voyage to America during which Pnin had, at least in his mind, assumed fatherhood for Liza's baby. Water can symbolize so many things it's hard to say if this is anything meaningful or just a red herring. It is curious that Liza's married name is Wind. Water, wind. Is fire next?

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    Coachella Junkie SoulDischarge's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    I fell a bit behind due to the flu making my thoughts all scrambled so I haven't been able to concentrate on much. Are most people behind or on schedule at this point?
    Quote Originally Posted by guedita View Post
    Thanks for giving us the opportunity to not give a fuck again.

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    old school JorgeC's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    I'm halfway thru Chapter 3 and will finish it at lunch. A lot of references to Pnin's prior homes.
    Quote Originally Posted by guedita View Post
    Which healthcare provider will euthanize you the fastest as a service to society?
    8/2&3 HARD Summer - 8/7 Arctic Monkeys@Staples - 8/8 Cut Copy@Brooklyn Bowl - 8/22 NIN@Verizon - 8/23&24 FYF Fest - 9/2 Bear in Heaven@Echoplex - 9/4 Phantogram@Fox Pomona - 9/6 Atmosphere@Palladium - 9/10 Britney Spears - 10/8 Gus Gus@Roxy - 10/10 Twin Shadow@Glass House

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    zeezus amyzzz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    I haven't read chapter 3 yet.
    Quote Originally Posted by guedita View Post
    Because fucking millenials that's what

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    old school JorgeC's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    Rage, I like your take on the water theme. I don't usually notice stuff like that until someone points it out, good observation.

    Finished reading chapter 3. Pnin is hilarious with how hard he makes things on himself (again, exactly like people I know IRL). I was reading his library adventure at lunch and caught someone staring at me when i was laughing about him losing his note card in a dictionary. It was an elderly lady at the table next to me at El Pollo Loco. She said she hasn't seen someone reading in public in a long time. This EPL is right next to a elderly care facility, glad I could bring a smile to her face before she dies.

    Anyway, it seems to me that Pnin doesn't know what he wants (a place to move to? to be more respected?), or if he does want something he doesn't seem to go for it. He thinks of women, but doesn't pursue. He wants to write a book on Russian culture (i think) but takes his sweet time writing down so much stuff that i doubt he'll ever actually do it. The film that he watches towards the end of Chapter 3 that brings tears to his eyes makes me think he misses home, or the idea of home. Especially considering how often he moves, I don't feel he's comfortable anywhere.
    Last edited by JorgeC; 02-10-2012 at 06:52 AM.
    Quote Originally Posted by guedita View Post
    Which healthcare provider will euthanize you the fastest as a service to society?
    8/2&3 HARD Summer - 8/7 Arctic Monkeys@Staples - 8/8 Cut Copy@Brooklyn Bowl - 8/22 NIN@Verizon - 8/23&24 FYF Fest - 9/2 Bear in Heaven@Echoplex - 9/4 Phantogram@Fox Pomona - 9/6 Atmosphere@Palladium - 9/10 Britney Spears - 10/8 Gus Gus@Roxy - 10/10 Twin Shadow@Glass House

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    Coachella Junkie Alchemy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pnin - February 2012 Book Club Discussion

    I just zipped through all the posts, because I'm not caught up on chapter four yet. I've had trouble sitting down with the book. I'm about to hit chapter three though, and I'm enjoying it quite a bit. I loved the little part about the teeth. It was funny and I could sympathize a little, reading this book with four gaping holes in the back of my gums.
    Quote Originally Posted by canexplain View Post
    I try to be politically pc more than most here: As a dude, anyone who could put a shark up a gals pc body, is pretty creepy, different and interesting. Just saying big time ..... cr****

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