Three Men on the Edge – for Book Groups

Three Men on the Edge offers something a bit different from traditional book group fiction choices, as it’s a hybrid between a novel, short-short stories and poetic prose.
If you think your book group would benefit from trying a more unusual kind of fiction and would be interested to read Three Men on the Edge, please send me a message here – for bulk orders (5 copies or more) I can send author copies without postage costs.
Below is a list of blog posts that provide some added context for this novellain-flash.
1. The Edgelands
2. Part One – Denholm
3. Part Three – Martyn
4. Prose Poetry vs. Flash Fiction (and Part Two – Gus)
5. Tragic Clowns
6. Bonus Story – ‘The Belly of the Whale’ 
7. Bonus Story – ‘Tuberous Begonia’
And here is a set of prompts for Book Group Discussions.

THREE MEN ON THE EDGE – BOOK GROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

General Questions

  1. What are the parallels, connections, or common elements across the three parts of the book? What are the differences?
  2. Which is your favourite of the three parts, and why?
  3. The author ends each section with an unresolved crisis. How might the stories have continued?
  4. How does the novella’s setting influence the book? How does this location compare to your own connections to urban, suburban or rural environments? Have you previously encountered an urban-rural “edgeland” yourself? How did it compare to the one in the book?

Form / Style

  1. How does the style of the novella compare to other fiction that you have read before? What is the impact of the “linked short-short stories” form of the book on your reading experience? How did you feel about “filling in the gaps”? Are there differences between the three sections in this respect?
  2. Life is often described as a journey or story, while others claim it should instead be seen as a series of unconnected, arbitrary or plotless moments. Do you feel your own life unfolds as a “story” or as a series of separate “moments”? In which situations have you had / do you have a feeling of “story” about your own life? Is our sense of our own life story something we construct only in hindsight, like a novelist might?
  3. How accurate is fiction’s dominant tradition of “continuous” narrative, in this context? Is a “novella-in-flash”, with its sequence of connected and unconnected ‘moments’ a form that’s any closer to the actual experience of our lives?

Themes

  1. What are the different characters’ relationships to fantasy or reality? How healthy or distorted is their view of the world? Can we or should we live without fantasy?
  2. What are the different forms of obsession on display in the novella? To what differing extent are they familiar, acceptable, or even admirable? Do you feel obsession is inevitable, or somehow necessary in life? In what ways has obsession been actively useful or actively unhelpful in your own life?
  3. The book is introduced by a quote from E.M. Forster – ‘Only connect!… live in fragments no longer’ – how do you feel this relates to the novella? How do the novella’s different characters connect to the world, or disconnect from it? Compare the full quotation from. Ch. 23 of Howards End – how does this change your view of its meaning?
  4. Would you say in life generally that “companionship’s the cure” (p.36), or do you find nature, art, a hobby – or something else – a better remedy?

Characters

  1. How would you characterise Denholm, Gus and Martyn’s attempts to find meaning in their lives? Where are they going wrong? Where are they getting it right?
  2. In what ways are the three main protagonists typical or not typical of men that you know?
  3. In all three parts of the book, the male protagonists fall into crisis when struggling for connection to the different women in their lives. In what ways can and do women, whether through friendship, work, love, family or some other means, rescue men from falling into crisis that they’d otherwise fall into?
  4. How lost or redeemable is Denholm? Do you think he’d be happier if he broke up with Joan? How fair do you think he is being on her? How sympathetic do you feel towards him, and why?
  5. The middle (‘Gus’) section takes a different approach to character and storytelling, emphasising description, physical context and symbol / image rather than major actions or events. What would you say we learn nevertheless about Gus’s character? How sympathetic do you feel towards him, and why?
  6. Who / what does Martyn secretly (or not so secretly) love the most – Anja? Rob? Himself? His art? How sympathetic do you feel towards him and his situation, and why?
%d bloggers like this: