Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
"Unless, unless. Unless is the worry word of the English language. It flies like a moth around your ear. You hardly hear and yet, everything depends on its breathy presence. Unless -- that's the little subjunctive mineral you carry along in your pocket crease. It's always there, or else not there. Unless you're lucky, unless you're healthy, fertile, unless you're loved and fed, unless you're clear about your sexual direction, unless you're offered what others are offered. You go down into darkness, down into despair. Unless provides us with a trap door, a tunnel into the light the reverse side of not enough. Unless keeps you from presiding into the drowning arrangements. Ironically, unless, the lever which that finally shifts reality into a new perspective cannot be expressed in French. A moins que does not have quite the heft; sauf is crude. Unless is a miracle of language and perception, Danielle Westerman says in her most recent essay "The Shadow of the Mind." It makes us anxious, makes us cunning. Cunning like the wolves that crop up in the most thrilling fairy tales. But it gives us hope
-- Reta Winters, UNLESS
Topics for Discussion
Men and women:
Writers writing about writers writing about writers:
I wanted to write, mainly, about the question of goodness -- what it means, how much goodness is available to us as contemporary beings, if the drive for goodness is real or a projection of our imagination, or just lint from the fluffy side of our brain.
I also wanted to write about mothers and daughters, about writers and readers, and about men and women. This sleeping elephant, as I visualized it, had four feet, and I wanted to draw him (her?) slowly to a standing position, first one knee, then another, then the whole bulky body heaving itself solidly upward.
The voice of Reta Winters, 44, writer, translator, mother, arrived by way of a short story, "The Scarf," from Dressing Up for the Carnival. Almost all the questions of life perplex her, but she never for a minute resists the temptation to ignore them. I wanted her to have a happy marriage -- since I almost never see such marriages in fiction and wonder why not. The fictional world and the way it overlaps and interrogates the "real" world, has always been part of my love of literature. Like any novelist I write so that I can share something of my own vision of the world, but I wanted with this book -- I always want -- to write fiction that offers delight and good will.
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Harper Perennial. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.
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