The York Festival of Ideas, in partnership with the University of York’s Department of English and Related Literature, hosts a virtual book club named after the Quiet Place on the University’s Campus West.
The Quiet Place Book Club invites members of the public, staff, students and graduates to join their reading group on Instagram.
We announce one book each month throughout the year and experts in the Department of English and Related Literature will provide comments and thought-provoking questions to encourage debate and guide our shared reading. There will also be posts providing expert reactions to literary news headlines, national events, and seasonal topics.
Books in the book club will be related to areas of teaching and research in the Department of English and Related Literature, across all genres and age-ranges, as well as literary events in the York Festival of Ideas each year. To join the book club follow @quietplacebookclub on Instagram.
Find any books you might have missed in our archive.
Throughout March, we’ll be discussing Pedro Páramo (1955) by Juan Rulfo. Hailed as the great Mexican novel (I’d argue novella), Rulfo offers a veritable insight into Latinx culture; an antidote to a recent “wannabe narco-novel.” Alongside a collection of short stories (El Llano en llamas / The Burning Plain and Other Stories ), Rulfo’s reputation rests on this slender (some may say spellbinding) text. Gabriel García Márquez credits Pedro Páramo with helping him to overcome his writing block and pen his own masterpiece. This is an occult narrative: one which teeters between the living and the dead. Indeed, Rulfo can be seen as a forerunner for the magic realism championed by his successors.
Introducing our February read: Adelle Stripe’s Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile (2017). Known for her chapbook poetry, including Dark Corners of the Land (2012), Stripe’s debut novel has recently been shortlisted for the Portico prize. It’s inspired by the Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar, who was known for her acerbic portrayals of the Buttershaw council estate (where she grew up) before she died from a brain haemorrhage at the tender age of 29.
Ushering in a new year is Ocean Vuong: a remarkable talent and a young Vietnamese-American author who credits his tutor, fellow novelist and poet, Ben Lerner for introducing the potential of a writing life. Up until then, Vuong recounts to Daniel Wenger, “I thought all poets were preordained. The government decided…‘You, you, you.’”
Night Sky with Exit Wounds is a volume dedicated to memory, to cultural inheritance, to love and loss. Vuong is interested in the sounds of the English language, in form and in typographical arrangement - something which social media cannot pay homage to (and which you’ll have to pick up a copy to appreciate!).
When Anne Enright warns you not to read Emilie Pine’s debut collection of essays, Notes to Self, in public because “it will make you cry,” she is not wrong. Emilie gave a searing and spellbinding reading as part of the ‘Writers at York’ series at the end of November, which left many of her former colleagues at the Department of English and Related Literature - as well as many of its students - wiping away their tears, captivated by her prose. From tracing her ‘wild child’ years and the relationship with her alcoholic father to reflections on overworking and motherhood, Emilie deftly handles each topic she addresses, leaving the reader to ponder their own lives as much (if not more so) than the life of the writer.
This month we welcome the iconic Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. As Doris Lessing argued, Carson “was the originator of ecological concern” and is rightly credited with alerting the public at large to the damage inflicted through the widespread use of pesticides. This is as much a literary text as it is a scientific treatise; a call to action that continues to resonate more than half a century since it was first published in 1962.
Just as Carson writes in her author’s note, this text (and our pick for the month) is dedicated to those “who first spoke out against the reckless and irresponsible poisoning of the world that man shares with all other creatures, and who are even now fighting the thousands of small battles that in the end will bring victory for sanity and common sense in our accommodation to the world that surrounds us.”
Han Kang’s hypnotic novella, The Vegetarian is our October read. Published in South Korea as three novelettes before being compiled as ‘Chaesikjuuija’ in 2007 (but retaining its triptych structure), The Vegetarian was translated into English by Deborah Smith in 2015. A tremendous (and tremendously contentious) piece of fiction with matters of ecology and sexuality, Kang’s work defies summary but makes for a truly memorable reading experience.