Spoonbenders Discussion Journal

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory did not receive glowing reviews during the book club discussion, but most members present seemed to like it or find it interesting. We were thoughtful.  Our first responder liked it and particularly mentioned the writing style. For many of us, the multiple character shifts led often to confusion. For some, the psychic powers were too much fantasy.  At least two readers let me know they disliked it enough to stop reading and not attend the meeting. A couple of others didn’t like it, but they accepted the challenge!SpoonbendersCover

We discussed how to classify the novel, and how important that can be to help us filter the multitude of reading options down to manageable and rewarding selections.  One or two mentioned fantasy and science fiction, because of the family’s special powers.  Yet one of us thought it was realistic fiction. He thought that patriarch Teddy, conman and non-psychic, actually seemed to possess all the powers of his children without the magic! In his afterword, the author actually states, “. . . none of it’s real, folks.”  Which makes me think of Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law:  “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”[1]

We discussed personal experiences with psychics and the real-life government program called Star Gate[2]. During our meetings we have often discussed how things we read open our eyes to the world around us, and just this morning, the front page of our local newspaper reported, “A lawyer was steadily swindled out of $1.5 million after authorities said she responded to a flyer for ‘Psychic Readings’ she found on the door of her Summerlin home.”[3] Science fiction, fantasy fiction, realistic fiction or all of the above?

We discussed details, like why Teddy chose the name Telemachus, the name of the son of Odysseus and Penelope.[4] Irene is a favorite character. Buddy is endearing. Characters are absolutely original (if not believable?). As funny as the book is, the hand crushing detail is jarring. And why did Buddy’s first intimate experience have to be with a man? Which brought us to recent library staff Gender training and our previous book club selection, This Is How It Always Is. What seems odd to one of us might not to another of us.

I read a passage that had stood out for me:  “The problem with getting old was that each day had to compete with the thousands of others gone by. How wonderful would a day have to be  to win such a beauty contest?” Another member read “Wide awake in the thin hours of the night, her mind churning along on the All-Star Tour of Embarrassments and Mistakes. The tour could visit any decade, and feature any number of characters from her past . . .”

Time in Spoonbenders was the most interesting concept for me.  At the end of the book, I realized how the author had given clues for the ending that I only enjoyed on a second reading. My mother, who lives in Missouri but still often reads our selections, suggested that the confusing nature of the book is like reality, never so clear as in hindsight. I researched the concept of time in books and came across an article listing the Top 10 Books About Time. The author highlights the fourth century Confessions by St. Augustine, “He [Augustine] noted that what we call three tenses are really just shades of one: our present experience of the past (otherwise known as memory); our present experience of the future (anticipation), and our present experience of the present (attention).”[5] Spoonbenders is rife with anticipation.

  • Men Who Stare at Goats (2009) Film
  • This Is How It Always Is (2017) by Laurie Frankel
  • Water for Elephants (2006) Sara Gruen

[1] This quote is well known and many sources can be found. This is just one:

Mascarenhas, K. S. (2011). Arthur c Clarke: Father of Satellite Communication. Science Reporter, 48(03), 14-15. Retrieved May 16, 2019, from http://nopr.niscair.res.in/bitstream/123456789/11159/1/SR 48(3) 14-15.

[2]               ESP: Inside the government’s secret program of psychic spies. (2018, March 18). Retrieved May 16, 2019, from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/esp-inside-the-governments-secret-program-of-psychic-spies/

Burton, B. (2017, January 20). CIA releases psychic experiment documents. Retrieved May 16, 2019, from https://www.cnet.com/news/cia-releases-psychic-experiment-documents-online-stargate-project-stranger-things/

[3]               Ferrara, D., & Ferrara, D. (2019, May 15). 3 charged in Las Vegas swindle that scammed attorney out of $1.5M. Retrieved May 16, 2019, from https://www.reviewjournal.com/crime/courts/3-charged-in-las-vegas-swindle-that-scammed-attorney-out-of-1-5m-1663714/

[4]               Britannica, T. E. (2018, February 07). Telemachus. Retrieved May 16, 2019, from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Telemachus-Greek-mythological-character

[5]               Burdick, A. (2018, January 10). Top 10 books about time. Retrieved May 16, 2019, from https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jan/10/top-10-books-about-time

St. Augustine quote:  “In you, my mind, I measure time.”