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First Experiments

Reading the Introduction of The Disappearing Spoon and the author’s childhood memories about mercury and thermometers made me think about my own experiences with science and chemistry as a child. I would spend a lot of time at my grandmother’s sink mixing various liquids (water, milk, pop, dishwashing liquid) with other things like ketchup and mustard and spices, all to be sealed in a bottle and sent to the basement to see what happens. I’m not sure that I ever looked back at those “experiements” but it was fun to mix them up and see what happened. I did have a chemistry set a little later but it wasn’t until college that I got more interested in science and chemistry again. Reading the introduction made me think about my first experiences with science and wondered what others first brushes with science or chemistry were like? -Professor Bruce King

New month, new read: ‘The Disappearing Spoon’

Sarah Jeong and Hu Womack, librarians at ZSR Library, are excited to be discussion leaders of the April DeacsRead alumni book club. This month, we will be reading the New York Times bestseller, The Disappearing Spoon and Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements, by Sam Kean. If you’ve not yet picked up a copy of the book, we hope you will grab one and begin reading this week. Dr. Bruce King, WFU Professor of Chemistry, is a guest commentator who will kick off our discussion! We hope you will join us!

In the meantime, if you are interested in being notified of new discussion posts for this book via email, fill out this form:

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Wrapping up & moving on

Book endings. Sometimes we love them, sometimes we hate them, sometimes we want more, and sometimes we’re just happy to be finished (ahem, Moby-Dick!). Although Lauren and I both *loved* the ending of The Marriage Plot, believing it to be one of the best we’ve ever read in both literary execution and reader satisfaction, others have been critical. What did you think? Did Madeleine do all she could have and should have to locate Leonard? Did Mitchell’s epiphany surprise you? Did the ending allow the characters to finally move on from college into true adulthood? Tell us what you loved, hated or might have changed!

We hope you enjoyed The Marriage Plot, and if so, encourage you to listen to the author interview (last link on this page) to know more of what Jeffrey Eugenides was thinking (and how to pronounce his name).

And please plan to join us for April’s discussion of The Disappearing Spoon!

Travel! Quests for enlightenment?

In “The Marriage Plot,” Mitchell and his roommate set off for a year of travel, and some planned field work, at the end of their first post-college summer. Beginning in Paris, then meandering their way through Europe before landing in India, their travel becomes more than sightseeing and almost elevates to quests for personal enlightenment and self-discovery.

Have you ever traveled extensively, with no set route and only a loose idea of where you’d end up? If so, share your stories…we know you have them!

Post-College Plans

Like Madeline, Mitchell, and Leonard, many of us spent at least part of college–even if it was just the final semester or two–thinking about what the next steps were going to be. There are so many decisions to make at that point in our lives: what city to live in, who to live with (or to live alone), what job to take, what industry to work in, how to live as adults. And each little decision we make sets us up with a little firmer understanding of the world we’ll contribute to and our role within it. Some of the decisions we make don’t work out. Some of the most significant decisions of our early adult life aren’t in line with our plans. All of these shape who we are and what we’ll do.

What did you expect your life to look like as a college senior? How closely has your life come to matching those expectations? Join the conversation here!

Defining college culture

Cultural touchstones – songs, events, innovations – anchor us to specific times and places, and often serve as instant connection points with others. It isn’t until page 14 that we know the year in which The Marriage Plot is set. However, cultural clues are sprinkled throughout the opening pages to subtly give readers an idea of the time:

  • the Talking Heads epigraph;
  • Patti Smith’s music;
  • New Wave band posters;
  • Elvis Costello glasses.

The most poignant touchstone for me (aka, I started singing it out loud!) was the song playing in the restaurant where Madeleine takes her parents for breakfast the morning of graduation:

So what cultural touchstones define your college years? What songs, events, fashions, books, movies, innovations do you recall? Do they help define your college experience? We’d love to hear about them!

Selecting a Major

We’re really looking forward to discussing this book! There are many topics we plan to address, but we thought we’d start with something that came up early in the book: the selection of a college major. On page 21, Eugenides wrote that Madeleine “[had] become an English major for the purest and dullest of reasons: because she loved to read.” Just after that he writes,

… That left a large contingent of people majoring in English by default. Because they weren’t left-brained enough for science, because history was too dry, philosophy too difficult, geology too petroleum-oriented, and math too mathematical–because they weren’t musical, artistic, financially motivated, or really all that smart, these people were pursuing university degrees doing something no different from what they’d done in first grade: reading stories. English was what people who didn’t know what to major in majored in.

As you might guess, that generated a lot of conversation between Molly and me and we thought you might have something to say on the topic, too. What did you major in? How did you make that choice? Or, now that you’ve graduated, what thoughts do you have about your major or the process you used to identify it?

We look forward to hearing from you! Add your comments here!

New month, new read!

Welcome to March, the second month of the DeacsRead alumni book club! Molly Keener and Lauren Pressley, librarians at ZSR Library, are excited to be this month’s discussion leaders for “The Marriage Plot” by Jeffrey Eugenides. If you’ve not yet picked up a copy of the book, we hope you will grab one and begin reading over the weekend — discussion will start early next week!

In the meantime, if you are interested in being notified of new discussion posts for this book via email, fill out this form:

Happy reading!

Wrapping Up!

It seems appropriate to wrap up this discussion of the biography of Steve Jobs, not with a closing post, but rather with a post containing a myriad of links to more information on the man and the company.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, but if you are interested in checking out some of the Apple Ads, Time magazine articles, or even Jobs’s famous Stanford commencement speech, check out the links below. Thanks to everyone involved in this project. Roz and I have enjoyed discussing this book and look forward to more of these discussions in the future!

Be sure to join Molly Keener and Lauren Pressley for the March discussion of  “The Marriage Plot” by Jeffrey Eugenides!

Various Links to Articles about Steve Jobs and Apple

Time Magazine Articles

Time Magazine Covers

PC Magazine Articles

CNN Article with links

Stanford Commencement address:

Apple Ads on YouTube

MacWorld and related articles:

Jony Ives’ memorial tribute video:

Get Ready for ‘The Marriage Plot’

We still have a week left to discuss Steve Jobs, but if you are interested in what the next book in the book club is – it is The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. The discussion leaders for that book will be Molly Keener, ZSR’s Scholarly Communication Librarian and Lauren Pressley, ZSR’s Head of Instruction. We hope you will join us!!