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Saturday, May 21, 2011

V.V.B.C.--I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg

Vicarious Virtual Book Club--
I Still Dream About You 
by Fannie Flagg

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For other Book Discussions, check the blog archives for entries that start out V.V.B.C. (Vicarious Virtual Book Club).
Warning: Spoilers! If you plan to read the book, don't read this review!

Ann was the facilitator for our Monday, May 16th, Sister Chicks Book Club discussion, since I Still Dream About You was her book suggestion. Ann did a great job of giving us Fannie Flagg's history, and experiences, which made it easy for us to see how events from Flagg's life were woven into the book.

One of the most interesting things Ann brought up, was that Fannie Flagg is severely dyslexic, and a terrible speller. She won a writing contest, in which she wrote from the perspective of a twelve year old, who was a poor speller. When a publisher asked her to expand the story into a novel, Flagg confessed she couldn't spell. The sympathetic editor asked, "Honey, what do you think editors are for?" Fannie Flagg's career as a novelist was launched!

Someone brought a past issue of a Thanksgiving Southern Living Magazine, which featured Fannie Flagg, with photos of the mansion she used as the model for Crestview. We all enjoyed seeing the pictures of Fanny Flagg throughout the years, and reading about her various careers.

I just finished reading a lot of reader reviews for the book, from the internet. They were divided in much the same way as our book club opinions. Pretty much, you either loved it, or thought it was "just ok." A small minority hated the book. Out of our 14 members attending Monday night, Ten "liked, really liked, or loved" the book, two disliked it, one thought it was o.k. One said "It was slapstick."

I was one of the two who didn't particularly like the book. I thought it was boring at the beginning, and predictable. I didn't care for the way Ms. Flagg inserted the "history" of Edwin and Edwina into the story, by saying in essence "nobody will ever know this, but I'm going to tell the readers...." I thought that part of the plot should have been better integrated into the story, especially since the research librarian had done so much work on the subject! I guess I prefer books with a little more complexity and substance.

I appreciate Ms. Flagg's storytelling ability, her affinity for quirkiness, and her distinctive dialogues. Fannie Flagg indeed has a gift for creating, and bringing to life, colorful characters. Her vivid descriptions, lively language, and memorable sayings ARE entertaining. One reviewer said if the exclamation, "Oh, Lord!" had been omitted, the book would have been several chapters shorter! I didn't object to that particular phrase, because I found Flagg's usage to be characteristically Southern!

I believe the dramatized Audible Version of I Still Dream About You was better than simply reading the book. That's definitely not always the case! The Audible interpretation, especially of some of the more phantasmagorical scenes in the book, was very entertaining! (Click on one of the Audible links in the right margin, to listen to an excerpt.)

I thought some of the characters were more like caricatures, which, I guess, helped them served their purposes in the book. The truth is, all small Southern towns DO have characters like Flagg portrayed! In general, things that seemed like deficits to me, were appreciated by those who said they enjoyed the book.

The general consensus of the people who liked the book, was that the book was "entertaining," "great escape fiction," "light reading," etc. They enjoyed Hazel's character, and thought the friendship between Brenda and Maggie was surprising, but sweet and believable.

We were asked to consider what would be on our "pro and con" suicide list. We discussed some of Maggie's entries, with varying degrees of identification with her thoughts!

One of the articles I read said that Flagg was outed by a former partner. I don't think that came up at book club. Reading about that gave me more insight into some of Flagg's subject matter, including Brenda's confession of being gay, and Edward/Edwina's cross-dressing.

Treating the subject of suicide so casually, bothered me, personally. Several others agreed. Sister Chick, Sheron, said Maggie should have tried an anti-depressant, which I thought was a great observation! However, if Maggie had been more mellow from prescription drugs, there wouldn't have been a story!

Someone at book club said they read that I Still Dream About You was Flagg's love story to her home state, and birth city of Birmingham. That would make sense. The book did it's best to present Birmingham and Alabama positively.

I think everyone agreed that Maggie's perfectionism was one of her primary problems. Maybe half felt that the book was predictable. Most everyone agreed that there were some hysterical situations/predicaments in the book. People spoke of laughing out loud.

We had an interesting discussion about "little people," "dwarves," and "midgets." Everyone loved Hazel's character, because she seemed so well-adjusted. We thought Hazel's parents did a great job rearing her!

We also discussed Whirling Dervishes, and a number of other interesting topics inspired by the book. I don't think we ever came to a conclusive reason for the name of the book. I've searched online, and haven't found one either. The ideas that were put forth included that Maggie always dreamed about life in Birmingham, and maybe more specifically, of living in Crestview. Does anyone have any information in that regard?

Do any Sister Chicks have anything to add? Anyone else? Ann did a great job laying the groundwork for the book, and giving us good discussion questions. I didn't take too many notes, thinking I'd remember more than I have! This book was an example of a book I probably wouldn't have read, if not for book club. It's good to get outside of my literary comfort zone occasionally!

The best part of the book, for me, was the happy ending! When I thought Maggie was drowning, I didn't think she'd ever get married and live "happily ever after!"

The Sister Chicks voted on our books for the next six months. A couple of them sound really good! I will post the list soon! Y'all feel free to jump in, and weigh in, on I Still Dream About You!

P.S. I found this video with Fannie Flagg, and it made me appreciate the book a little more!

1 comment:

  1. I was wondering if Fannie Flagg was/is gay because she also brought that up in Fried Green Tomatoes, but didn't bring it up because there was so much discussion. Sheron


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