After a summer break, we’re thrilled announce that our September pick for Ballerina Book Club, hosted by American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Isabella Boylston, is “Something New Under the Sun” by Alexandra Kleeman. Set in a parched, dystopian near-future enshrouded in drought, fire and mystery, the book is the second novel from the “You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine” author.
What can you expect from “Something New Under the Sun”? The publisher states that, in the book, “Kleeman grapples with the corruption of our environment in the age of alternative facts” and describes the novel as “a meticulous and deeply felt accounting of our very human anxieties, liabilities, dependencies and, ultimately, responsibility to truth.”
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How it starts: The novel opens with writer Patrick Hamlin arriving in Los Angeles, where his book is in the midst of being adapted into a movie. In between the traffic, worry about the potential star of the adaptation (set to be a popular starlet named Cassidy Carter) and chatter from philosophical film buffs (referred to by Patrick in a text to his wife as “genuine West Coast stoners”), the book’s first chapter reveals that California’s water system has been privatized by the aptly named company WAT-R. Meanwhile, back home on the East Coast, Patrick’s wife Alison shares that she is taking their daughter Nora on a “nature retreat” to a place called Earthbridge, setting off concern in our protagonist.
You can find our reading schedule below. Be sure to check the newsletter for discussion questions and special surprises.
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~ Reading Schedule ~
Sept. 2: Chapters 1-2
Sept. 9: Chapters 3-5
Sept. 16: Chapters 6-8
Sept. 23: Chapters 9-10
~ Discussion Questions ~
- What do you make of early interactions with the film’s lead actress Cassidy Carter — from when we are introduced to her first via the viral video and then in real life at the restaurant?
- In the book’s opening pages, one of the production assistants says of watching something like a horror movie from its start: “You need those shots of the suburbs and hedges and mailboxes to prep for the massacre that comes later. When the violence is unleashed, the viewer can’t comfort themselves by thinking it’s a neighborhood fundamentally different from their own. They’ve already swallowed the pill.” What did you think of this conversation and later philosophical moments between the PAs? How did you see this in relation to the viral video of Cassidy?
- What are the differences between how Patrick characterizes California and how he thinks of the East Coast?
- The water in California has been privatized and replaced with a system called WAT-R. At Patrick’s hotel, he turns on the tap in the bathroom and is met with a “faint scraping sound from the rotating fixtures.” Underneath the sink, the pipes are gone and he learns that if he wants WAT-R, he has to purchase it. What do you think of this system (and the substance) as we are introduced to it over the first two chapters?
- Patrick’s wife Alison says that when she looks out of their back window, all she sees is dying. On the same call, she announces that she’s taking their daughter, Nora, to a place called Earthbridge. What do you think she hopes to find?
- How does Patrick’s interpretation of the “ghost story” in his novel differ from what is interpreted by the screenwriter? What kind of disconnect does this create between him and the movie team? What ways do people become ghosts, both literally and figuratively?
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