What does active, critical, or even creative reading look like? Send a photo of an analytically—or artfully—annotated passage of Station Eleven. Use a page of the novel as the canvas for art inspired by it, or show us the “close reading” questions and observations you’re making about a single passage. Make Station Eleven your own. Tweet images (#UOCommonReading) or email CommonReading@uoregon.edu. Prizes for best images. And here is our advice for how to approach a text as a critical reader.
Station Eleven opens with a scene from Shakespeare’s King Lear: “The king stood in a pool of blue light, unmoored.”
How would your apocalyptic novel open? Submit the first lines at here, or Tweet #UOCommonReading. Hook us or haunt us. What is the style, perspective, and setting of your end-of-days story? Does your opening hint at key themes you’ll explore? Prizes for the best openings: tickets to special event with the author, lunch with new UO President Michael Schill, or beautiful editions of Shakespeare’s plays. Also: last chance to vote for Week of Welcome apocalyptic film—Interstellar is in the lead!
Check out our Twitter feed for some great shots of Ducks reading Mandel’s novel–these range from artful to cozy to amazing! Tweet yours #UOCommonReading or email us!
— Quintin (@Quintinrader13) September 3, 2015
— Jimbles Turkeytits (@canadiansoftba) August 21, 2015
Station Eleven takes us to a future in which civilization as we know it has been destroyed by a flu pandemic. Mandel’s focus on the beauty that remains—and is preserved in plays, music, and other cultural forms—is unusual; but her novel joins scores of fantasies of destruction in television, film, and literary fiction.
Why do we love to imagine the end of times so much?
In “Is Dead the New Alive?,” Brooks Landon considers a range of reasons a sub-genre of apocalyptic story—zombies, of course—remains popular: perhaps, in a world of difficult to understand threats—terrorism, global climate change—zombies give us something reassuringly concrete to imagine “fighting.” Or maybe they’re just escapist fun. Or perhaps the end of of the world as we know it gives us the chance to imagine starting fresh. He writes:
Overwhelmed by the increasingly abstract complexities of contemporary life?… Got some pent up anger and violent tendencies you know are not cool? Imagine the satisfaction of that ‘thwack’ when your baseball bat/machete/shovel/hockey stick connects with a zombie head. And then there’s that old lure of the ‘cozy catastrophe,’ the really unfortunate apocalypse which—on the bright side—lets us start over with a clean slate. (8)
In an article about the rise of apocalyptic and dystopian Young Adult fiction, Forbes‘ magazine Debra Donston-Miller interviewed YA authors and media critics who claim that teens are highly aware of inheriting a planet “trashed” by their elders and beset by inequalities: it’s no wonder imagining teen heroes overthrowing a terrible status quo is so satisfying for young adult readers, they claim.
Why do you think stories of civilization’s collapse are so enduring, so popular? Tell us in a comment to this post.
Don’t forget to vote for an apocalyptic film to show during Week of Welcome. So far, Zombieland and Interstellar are running neck and neck.
We’re very excited to hear what you think of this year’s Common Reading! Once you’ve read the opening chapter or so, we invite you to share some of your first impressions here: for example, what clues has Mandel given you
about what’s going to be important in this novel? What characters, themes, and issues are you on the alert for? What questions do you have? Why is a celebrity actor’s death of a heart attack rendered so spectacularly, with such detail, on the opening pages, when the deaths of millions and collapse of civilization is depicted glancingly—“alluded to,” rather that presented in its pain and suffering, as New York Times reviewer Sigrid Nuenez puts it?
Any first thoughts? Welcome to the conversation!
And don’t forget, we’d love to see photos of you with the book—or just the book—that give us a sense of hometowns and summer holidays and favorite reading nooks… of all the varied places Ducks are turning their Station Eleven pages.
Send us a “traveling gnome” photo of you with Station Eleven (or just of the book if you prefer) in a location that matters to you—say, somewhere in your hometown, or with you on holiday. Tweet #UOCommonReading or email CommonReading@uoregon.edu. Most artful or farthest from Eugene photos can win tickets to VIP event with Emily St. John Mandel, lunch with new UO President Michael Schill, or beautiful editions of Shakespeare’s plays.