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A Carol of Cookies and Christmas; Book Club!
Topic Started: Jan 30 2012, 11:04 PM (1,619 Views)
dmboogie
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((In an effort to avoid confusion: green text without quotes is sign language, "green" text with quotes is being both said and signed, and anything with <"brackets"> is a translation. It just seems a bit simpler than constantly saying whether or not every sentence is being signed, what's being translated, ect. If it's kinda stupid, tell me, I guess. Also, yeah, mild A Song of Ice and Fire spoilers.))

It was about a week and a half before Christmas, and the house was full of various decorations, all displaying varying levels of holiday cheer. What really drew the eye, however, was the tree occupying the center of the living room. It was covered in colorful lights and ornaments, all of which combines into one rather pretty package.

Christmas was serious business at the Whitten household, especially on the years such as this one where it hosted the family Christmas get-together. It was a sort of an informal contest, all this competing to have the best-looking house. Daniel figured that his family had a fair chance of "Winning" this year. He hadn't been too enthusiastic about the idea, but his father and Erica had conscripted him, and he had to admit that the house was quite aesthetically pleasing.

Of course, it seemed like a whole lot of work for something that would be all be put away after about a month. Well, he guessed that they could be left up for a little while longer than the norm, but then his family would be one of those families. The ones that have Christmas decorations up well into summer. Those guys are jerks. Daniel wasn't sure exactly why improper decoration was qualification for jerk-ness, but whatever. It just seemed like one of the fundamental laws of the universe, y'know?

Daniel was brought back to reality by a tap on the shoulder that was perhaps a bit harder than strictly necessary. He turned around, finding a rather frustrated Michael glaring at him. Michael quickly signed Dude! We've been waiting for like five minutes! I forgot to bring my iPod, so translate! Go go go! Daniel sheepishly shrugged his shoulders. Ah. Yes. Book Club. That was totally a thing that was going on right now.

The rest of his family was out of the house today, (Erica was out with friends, mom was at work, dad was shopping for gifts) so it was decided that the meeting should be held at Daniel's place. "Sorry, I spaced out for a second, there." He admitted, facing the various assembled members of the book club. "We might as well start talking about the book. Er, Michael, could you start us off?"

They'd decided on the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire, A Game of Thrones, a week ago, mostly by Michael's suggestion. Considering the, well, considerable length of the book, they'd only been assigned the first few chapters to read, up to Bran's fall. Daniel rather liked the book, so far. He'd heard how it rather brutally messed around with standard fantasy cliches, and so far it had failed to disappoint.

-

Michael took a bite out a Christmas cookie, apparently made by Daniel's sister. It was good, as far as Christmas cookies went. To be honest, he didn't really like Christmas cookies that much, anyway. That just tasted so bland! They were smothered in frosting, burying any taste the whatever-cookies-are-made-of had! A disgrace! He looked up, glancing at the people assembled. The various greetings had all been exchanged, and small talk was apparently being exchanged.

Not that he would KNOW, considering that Daniel had halted in his duties, and was instead staring at the tree with a blank look on his face. He may be Michael's best friend, but damn, he wished that Daniel got distracted less easily. Sure, whenever he was actually on-task he was great at translating, but it was so frustrating to be in the middle of a conversation and then be left in the dark because a friggin' butterfly flew past!

Enough was enough. It was time to talk books. Michael stabbed Daniel's shoulder with his finger. Wincing a little, his friend turned to face him. Dude! We've been waiting for like five minutes! I forgot to bring my iPod, so translate! Go go go! Michael signed. At least Daniel had the decency to look embarrassed. He turned to the rest of the group, declaring that the meeting had officially started, and looked at Michael expectantly.

Alright! So, Jaime and Ceresi are fucking! Jaime's a murderous asshole who throws kids from high places! Reactions, comments, shock, despair at this turn of events? Daniel winced a bit at the profanity, then relayed the message to the others. Michael suspected that the dude considerably censored his translations, but to be honest, Michael didn't mind. It'd be kind of a dick move to force him to be literal, considering his large aversion to cursing. Still, no harm in trying. Make every statement as "Loud" as possible, that was the Michael Mitchellson way!

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Rachael sat in her chair and sipped her mug of tea. She was glad to get the chance to meet with Book Club before Christmas, since it meant she could see the members at least once before everyone was sidetracked by holiday trips and family meetings.

The book was an interesting choice. She had heard about the graphic details of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, mostly the fact that most of the named characters die, and was surprised when it was chosen. However, she figured the HBO series had something to do with the choice.

She only briefly followed the television show. She did have HBO in her house, but she only rarely ever would watch anything on it, mostly if she was looking to watch something specifically. Game of Thrones had been on a few times, and she did watch some of it. She was shocked by the lack of restraint the show had, such as watching people get beheaded, seeing people have sex, and even watching a guy get molten gold dumped on his head. Shocking, but fascinating.

Still, Rachael was ready to discuss the book. She couldn't stop after Bran's fall, so she read ahead, up to the point where Tyrion Lannister was put before Lysa Tully in the Eyrie. Still, she was ready to hide spoilers and discuss what everyone else should have read.

Michael started the meeting out by discussing his shock at the incest between Cersei and Jaime. Rachael figured she should get in.

"Well, it is gross, but it quickly establishes the world the characters are in, mostly the dark parts," she began, pausing to sip her tea again. "It makes it clear how corrupt the twins are, and also serves to show how dark Martin plans to get in the series. Incest is quite a taboo, so if it's present in this world, then several other atrocities will be present."

Rachael sipped her tea again and waited for a response.
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The best part about Christmas was the cookies. Naomi didn't know what it was about Christmas cookies, but they were fantastic. Sugary and crispy and decorated. Which made them delicious. It may have just been Naomi's weakness for sugary things speaking, though.

Christmas cookies and Book Club at the same time was even better. Book Club was almost relaxation for her. There was no competition. Just casual chit-chat, unlike most of the other clubs she had joined through school.

She stayed silent, chewing on the cookies happily, as Michael signed at Daniel and Daniel relayed what he was saying. She was mostly focused on Michael's hands. It would be smart to learn sign language. It would look impressive and be extremely useful. She'd be able to talk to Michael, for one. It was difficult to talk to someone when someone had to translate for them. Clearly, she needed to take a class on signing and pick up enough to carry a basic conversation. Maybe over the holidays.

She listened to David's translation enough to know what they were talking about. The scene where Bran had fallen. Well, 'fallen' with quotation marks.

To be honest, Naomi wasn't that into fantasy stories. She used to love them as a child, of course. She'd devoured the Narnia books like they were pieces of candy. But she'd gotten bored of them as she got older. She preferred books more grounded in reality. Or at least in a recognizable period of history. She liked books that reflected what people in the times they were written in thought of. Fantasy books were set in make-believe lands that she had no time for.

Although, A Game Of Thrones was decent for a fantasy tale. Gritty, but decent. A bit over the top when it came to some of the 'shocking' content (what kind of economy allows people to routinely murder each other at weddings?) but better than the other extreme, those fantasy stories that were just jewels and cotton candy.

Rachael finished talking about the corrupt twins and the other atrocities that would obviously be present. Naomi swallowed the mouthful of cookie she had before speaking.

"Agreed. Although, if it starts off with incest and pushing children out of towers, that's rather a big act to follow. If that's in the first few chapters, how much worse can it escalate through the rest of the book? And never mind the four books after it. I just hope Martin hasn't hit his peak too soon.

"Though, concerning Jaime pushing Bran out the window... it's not particularly surprising. Well, the content is shocking, I suppose. Seven-year-olds usually have a good mortality rate in stories," Naomi said. "But Bran saw something he shouldn't have. Of course Jaime would make him have an 'accident.' I imagine the penalty for having incestuous relations with the queen would be quite high. And adding in the conversation that implied that Lysa's accusations were true..."

Naomi paused to take a bite of one of the Christmas cookies before adding, "Though anyone stupid enough to talk about their nefarious plots and then have disgusting, illegal sex right near an open window deserves to be punished for it. They could have at least put up some kind of curtain."
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Normally in times like this, Arthur would be sitting in the corner, completely zoned out and focusing on his own thoughts. But the spirit of the holidays had started to overtake him and make him cheerful and more outgoing. The fact that he was around good friends helped, too. These guys knew what he was about. He knew all of their screen names and talked with them online before. Actually, he could have really used his laptop right about then. As they talked about Bran and Jaime and Cersei, he kept thinking about how Order of the Stick was going. Homestuck, too.

Arthur had never gotten the hang of putting himself into a conversation. In real life, it was hard to pick the right time to speak up, because otherwise he'd be interrupting, and he knew how annoying it was to be interrupted. Besides, he agreed on the whole significance of the "things I do for love" scene. It was an early indication that the book wasn't fucking around, but the execution of the prologue's viewpoint character kind of contributed to that attitude. In fact, a whole lot of things pointed in that direction.

Arthur was thinking about one scene in particular, one he saw by reading ahead. For some reason, he didn't react as strongly to Bran's crippling as he did Lady's death. It seemed like fate. Six cubs for six children. Arthur wished he had a pet wolf. He didn't even have a regular dog. How kickass would it be to have a pet wolf? But then the pack got cut down to five, and Arthur found himself crying in his room. Nobody should be allowed to do that to a defenseless animal.

Then he caught Naomi saying something weird, which made him look right at her. "Um, par-pardon me," he said, "but what stories are you talking about, where little kids are expected to die all the time?" Naomi confused him sometimes. He knew enough about her that this wasn't her usual bag, and even his brief interest in politics couldn't compete with hers, which was much more intensive. In other words, she wasn't really a nerd like the rest of them. It was nice of her to hang out with them anyway, but it was still pretty weird.
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(AT LONG LAST. Apologies for the delay!)

Daniel relaxed, listening to the other members of the club share their reactions to the book. It was a rather nice turnout, considering that almost everyone was busy preparing for the holidays; though the club was still missing roughly half of its members. Daniel was still rather shocked at how big it had become over the years. After all, it had started off as a somewhat silly idea that Michael had thought up their freshman year.

The conversation that got the thing started had gone something like this: Hey, Daniel! Let's start a book club!

Sit around talking about books? Is that not what we always do, anyway?

Well, yeah, but I thought it'd be nice to have some other people. Variety, you know.

But-

Fuck it, we're doing this! You can be the vice president or whatever!

Er, if you insist. I do not think you'll have much luck finding members, though.

Challenge accepted! Daniel had to admit that Michael was quite good at recruiting, and they'd built up a group of core members over the years.

With a start he realized that he had managed to tune the discussion out completely. Curse you, nostalgic reminiscence! You are truly the mortal enemy of all mankind, seeking only its complete and utter annihilation! After a minute of attention-paying he was able to jump back in to the conversation. "Er, Arthur, I believe that Naomi means that children have a good mortality rate in that they usually don't get killed off. Indeed, brutally crippling a young boy sets the tone for the story rather well, at least from what I've heard. I sort of have a feeling that I'm the only one in the room who hasn't read ahead or watched the TV series." He laughed a bit at this.

Daniel was usually one of the kids who finished books in English class before the rest of the class had even gotten a fourth of the way through, but he had managed to restrain himself in this case.

-

Michael had been paying much closer attention than Daniel, not that such a task was hard to accomplish. The internet had, unfortunately, spoiled the ending of the book for him, but he was looking forward to the reactions of the other members, assuming they had managed to remain spoiler-free. He decided to add something to Daniel's statement. Yeah, but nowadays every freaking thing is killing off kids to try and seem "edgy". Bran's fall sorta looses its impact when you're used to surfing on a wave of dead babies's decapitated heads in a sea of blood. That Dead Island trailer, for example. And, Naomi, in the twins' defense, that tower was really damn high. As in, high enough that no one would have ever known if Bran hadn't decided to be a badass and channel Altair.

-

Daniel... did not translate that last statement literally.
Edited by dmboogie, Apr 12 2012, 01:56 PM.
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Rachael continued to sip her tea as the others discussed aspects of the book. Naomi brought up the issue of the mortality rates of children in fantasy stories, to which Arthur contested. She took one of the cookies Naomi had been munching on and quickly dipped it in the tea before eating it.

Daniel responded with a comment about the tone and how he hadn't read ahead or watched the series.

"Oh, well you should check out the series when you finish the book," said Rachael. "It's pretty gruesome, but it's wonderfully made and acted."

"But as for tone, writers are always trying to push the envelope in their genres, like how Agatha Christie explored different ways to have murder mysteries be resolved by having the killer be the detective or one of the supposed victims. I think Martin found a fascinating way with these characters. He's established this fantasy world with kingdoms, ice walls, and possibly zombies. Why not play with the tropes of fantasy literature by playing up the social implications of one's birth, as demonstrated through Jon Snow's illegitimate birth?"

"I think it was also clever to present a king and queen who clearly do not love each other and are both clearly cheating on each other. Martin just decided to up the ante by making the queen sleep with her brother. It definitely abolishes the romantic notions of medieval settings. I think that's what Sansa Stark is supposed to represent. Her chapters have her all lovey-dovey with Prince Joffrey."

Rachael took a bite out of her cookie.

"I think she's going to be in for a rude awakening."
Edited by Laurels, Apr 12 2012, 02:37 PM.
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Naomi kept gazing at Daniel and Michael's hands as they signed back and forth, with Daniel translating. It didn't really help pick up any specific words, but it couldn't hurt to attempt it.

She nodded in response to Daniel's correction. "Yes, that's what I meant. I suppose I could have phrased it better, though. I meant that, given the character, it wasn't surprising. Not that it was completely unsurprising to kill children off in the first place.

"But it works both ways, depending on the type of story. A cute in-the-clouds-magic-and-unicorns fantasy story rarely kills off children. But in darker stories, killing off children is... well, it's short-hand for 'this character is ruthless.'

"And quite frankly, Michael is right. It's overused for shock value. It's a bit like how ads that call for donations in third-world countries always show the starving kids. Generally, especially in these dark fantasy stories, it is a cheap shock tactic to kill off the children."

Naomi nibbled a bit more at her cookie and added, "Though, at least Jaime did it for a reason. So I'm not getting the sense that he's going to go out and kick a few puppies... or pet wolves... for fun. If he does, it will be for a reason."

To Michael's... she thought it was Michael's, anyway, though it was sometimes hard to tell when Daniel was translating... comment about the tower being extremely tall, Naomi waved her hand and added, "While a good point, it was well known that Bran liked climbing on the roof, and an open window is an open window regardless of how high it is."

Naomi finished her cookie and picked up another one as Rachael talked, occasionally nodding in agreement.

At the end, Naomi added, "Makes more sense that way. Marriages between royalty in older times were more often for political reasons. There should sometimes be resentful relationships." Naomi hated stories where someone chose love over reason, partly because it seemed like a stupid choice, and partly because the relationships always seemed to be built on shallow infatuation. At least A Game Of Thrones didn't seem like it was heading in that direction.

She had a sudden urge to flip towards the end of the book, just to make sure it didn't end with the political equivalent of 'the princess and the butcher's boy ran off together.' Wasn't there a butcher's boy in this? Naomi stuck the cookie into her mouth before picking up her copy of the book and flipping ahead a little.
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Alright, things were going pretty well. So it seemed. The urge to blame himself for misinterpreting Naomi’s statement about how likely it was for kids to die ran strong, but fuck the urge. Arthur was sick of giving in. When Michael corrected that assumption, Arthur looked down at the floor for a second, but only a second. Reflex soon gave way to willpower as Arthur met Michael in the eye again.

How sad was it, Arthur thought, that the deaf kid had ten times his confidence? When he realized what he was thinking, he clenched his fists. Those were the thoughts he wanted to get rid of, the thoughts that would keep him down and miserable. Besides, that one was particularly offensive. Thank God he didn’t say it out loud.

Now, how else could he contribute and keep up his momentum? He couldn’t say that Sansa was already starting to get a rude awakening thanks to Lady’s tragic passing, and so he just nodded in response to Rachel. But the supposed cliché of child-killing was something that got a rise out of him. Maybe he was just sensitive to criticism of this book, since he was already deeply entranced with the characters, but he felt he needed to offer a rebuttal to Michael and Naomi’s opinion, however logical that opinion might be.

“Well, yeah, but I don’t really get that, that, that feeling with this book,” he said. His speech was rough and unrehearsed, with awkward pauses and repeated words buying enough time for him to think of the rest of the sentence. “This isn’t just a cheap shock tactic. I mean, it’s not like this is just some random kid off the street without a name we know. We’ve met Bran before. We’ve gotten to know him and his hopes and dreams, and now he’s never going to get to, to, to…” He snapped his fingers twice to help him remember the right word. “Achieve! He’s never going to achieve any of those goals in this ruthless medieval society for the rest of his life, and he knows it!”

Alright, now he was on fire! Once Arthur got among friends who he knew all had the same interest as him, talking about just the right topic, he opened up like a Christmas present. “And you’re forgetting that this book was published in, um…” He whipped his head back and forth, frantically searching for his own copy of the book. Once he found it on the coffee table, he opened it and scanned the copyright page. “1996! It’s fifteen years old! I admit that I don’t really have a perfect grasp on the popularity of certain tropes and plot points throughout the years, but maybe Martin was one of the first people to do something like this instead of just someone on a bandwagon. Probably. I don’t think he’s a hack or anything.”

It was kind of a weak finish, but Arthur did well enough for a book club discussion. He let a smile onto his face before he went over his speech ahead. It vanished when he realized part of what he’d said.

They weren’t supposed to know that Bran had survived the fall.

“FUCK!”
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Daniel winced briefly at Arthur's outburst. Now he was being assaulted on two fronts. The ever-profane Michael, and now Arthur? Harsh world. He hurriedly continued with the translation, starting with a comment Michael had made to Rachael. <"Yeah, Sansa's pretty much seems to be the arch-typical 'pure girl who is harshly awakened to the cruel reality of the world around her', with the exception of being much more bratty than usual."> Daniel paused, then added his own remark.
"She is only about eleven years old, I think. You can hardly expect her to behave maturely. I do hope she does get better, though. Her POV chapters have been a bit painful to read through."

-

Michael, in the middle of consuming another cookie, signed an additional response to Naomi with his free hand. Fantasy romances tend to be over-idealized. I mean, how many stories end with the dashing knight winning the princess? You saved the fucking world, here's your fucking damsel. Don't worry, she's perfectly happy with being married to someone she hardly knows. After all, you can't have any complications to your perfect happily ever after, can you? I mean, in the original Sleeping Beauty, the prince raped her while she was comatose, and she still fell in love with him because he's a prince. Shit's fucked up, man. Realizing he'd gone off on a tangent, Michael finished, Just refreshing to see some realistic dysfunction, is all.

-

Daniel, after translating Michael's rather lengthy rant, (the speed at which he signed still threw Daniel off, sometimes) nodded in agreement. "You do have a point there, Michael. I also agree with Arthur, though. Bran's fall means a lot more because it happened to a developed character, not just some throwaway extra." As he finished, Daniel heard the sound of a car parking in the driveway. "Sounds like my dad is home. I guess this is about a good as time as any to call the meeting to a close. Let's read up until, uh..." he paused for a moment to get prompting from Michael, "The Stark's arrival in King's Landing, I guess. We've all got a nice long break ahead of us! We can decide the date of the next meeting later. Hopefully more people will be able to come, lots of people were too busy due to the holidays this time..."

-

As Daniel wrapped up the meeting, Michael stood. See you guys later. I'm having dinner at my grandparent's house, so I should probably get going now. Have a fan-fucking-tastic break and all that! Waving, Michael threw his coat on and left the house.

[Daniel Whitten: Continued elsewhere]

[Michael Mitchellson: Continued elsewhere]
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Rachael continued to sip her tea as she listened to the group. Naomi agreed with her comment on medieval marriages, while Arthur went off about the severity of making Bran the one to fall from the tower, although he seemed frustrated with the fact that he revealed that Bran survived the fall. Well, Rachael knew, so she wasn't too shocked, but it was clear that Arthur thought it was a big deal.

"It's okay Arthur. I think most of us would expect Bran to survive simply because his character has so much potential. Sure, Martin is sometimes criticized for creating characters just to kill off, but I think he would even recognize which characters might need to stay alive for a while."

Rachael continued to listen to the rest of the conversations in the club meeting. Plenty of discussion about characters like Sansa, conventions and tropes toyed with by the series, and more. Suddenly, Daniel's dad pulled into the driveway, which signaled the end of the meeting.

Daniel and Michael announced where they would pick up next meeting. Rachael smirked when she realized it was a chapter she had already gotten very far ahead of. Still, it might be good to refresh the chapters for the discussion.

"Okay guys, see you all next meeting," she said as she put on her pea coat and made her way to the door.

I definitely have to read more of this book.

((Rachael Langdon continued elsewhere))
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Naomi nodded to what Arthur was saying, unable to speak because she was still holding a cookie in her mouth. True, at least the child in danger had a personality. It wasn't like those books where the narration went 'look, a baby impaled on a spear. Isn't that sad.'

She was still flicking through later pages of the book when Arthur swore loudly. The volume caused her to nearly drop it. She quickly put the book down and finished eating the cookie so that she was free to speak again. By the time she could, Michael was talking about fantasy romances. At least, Naomi thought it was him talking.

"Oh, those old fairy tales are rather disturbing by today's standards, in any case. I suppose that version of Sleeping Beauty was a subject of moral dissonance. Plus, there's the fact that the prince was originally already married, and then his wife tried to eat both Sleeping Beauty and her children. In some later versions, the wife was changed into the prince's ogress mother." Naomi realised she'd gotten caught up in this subject, but old fairy tales and how they changed over time was just more interesting than fantasy stories written in modern times.

"And don't worry, Arthur. Bran surviving was essentially a given because it's more interesting plotwise, like Rachael said."

Daniel told them where to read up to before the next meeting. Naomi could probably manage it, although she had a lot of other books at home that she particularly wanted to read.

"Well, this was fun, as always. Oh, and Daniel... tell your sister that those cookies were delicious." Hm... come to think of it, she should probably pick up some cookies from the store for Maria on the way home. It was the least she could do, since her parents were busy over the majority of Christmas.

Naomi stood up and gazed through the window apprehensively. It looked really chilly out there, and she wasn't sure if her sweater would be warm enough. Oh well, she'd just have to hurry as fast as possible. But first, to the store.

"See you all after the holidays." With that, Naomi left.

((Naomi Bell continued elsewhere.))
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Arthur let out a weak chuckle. As if he was the only person at the meeting who read ahead! Everyone pretty much confirmed that Bran’s survival was a bit of a minor spoiler and something they could figure out anyway. Would he have figured it out if he hadn’t flipped through to look at the chapter names and seen that Bran had chapters of his own throughout the book? Maybe. He was pretty bad at avoiding spoilers, so he would probably never know.

“Sorry about that,” he said, looking down at the floor. “I didn’t mean to be so loud.” He leaned back against his seat and just listened to everyone else talking, like Michael’s enthusiastic argument. That couldn’t help but make Arthur smile again.

Then, before he knew it, everyone was making arrangements to leave. “Oh, we’re done already?” he asked, getting up from his seat. “Okay. I’ll come back next week.” He picked up his copy of Game of Thrones and looked at the page he bookmarked. Whatever Michael had referenced, he hadn’t gotten to it yet. He could fit it into his schedule pretty easily.

“Alright, see you guys later.” He left the room after everyone else, making sure to shut the door behind him.

((Arthur Wells continued elsewhere))
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