The Gray House, Week 2

Welcome to week 2. This was the section for today.

Week 2 (pp. 94-146)
8. The House: Interlude
12. The House: Interlude

Chapter 8: There’s rumors of a coup. Pompey, from 6, wants to become the next leader of 4, currently under Larry’s rule. Tabaqui lets Smoker know in a pompous speech about Pompey and his intentions. Smoker has a revelation in this chapter. He realizes that all of the others seem to know more about what’s going on at the House than he does. At the same time, he also realizes they are playing a big game, they just perpetuate a certain image, some behaviors and beliefs. He smiles at the thought of them being trapped in their own biases. Smoker tells Black this. They are having a night of celebration, in which they tell each other stories and legends while drinking. Smoker doesn’t want to drink the powerful and dangerous drink, he just drinks pine wine. They talk about the alleged basilisks in the forests, and no one seeing them, or returning. More stories, he doesn’t know why everybody is afraid to drink from the Moon-river drink. They crush in the mattresses on the floor.

Chapter 9: The House belonged to the Seniors. Counselors exist to maintain order, and teachers to entertain them and No one would tell them off. They could marry and adopt each other at will. (What does this mean?) They invented their world, they started a war, and nobody could enter their world. They were divided between red and black people. When they have their wars, they lock the juniors in their dorms. The seniors forget to unlock them after their battles, and they have to wait for the counselors in the morning.

Grasshopper peaked out of the door after one of this wars. He goes to visit Moor. Moor is a strange presence. He is a wheeler. He tells him OUT! Grasshopper is banned from Moor’s room for some reason. Other juniors have to serve him, and they all complain and curse Moor, – the purple one, as they call him-, but Grasshopper is jealous because he is not part of that group which is united by their dislike of Moor. Skull and other Seniors do what they want. Some of their rooms are filthy. There’s Humpback, and Ancient’s room, and his door is always closed. Grasshopper touches the amulet Ancient gave him.

Grasshopper realizes for the others their rooms are their home. His problem is that he has no room of his own, but his room is full of others he calls strangers. Grasshopper doesn’t want to fight. He wants a room to himself. But all the nooks are taken by the Seniors. He wants to find a dorm, but all of them are occupied by the Seniors. Even if Grasshopper and Blind moved to a dorm, the pack will follow them and pester them.

The last part of this chapter is what I tongue in cheek entitled the Karate Kid conversation.  Grasshopper has a candid encounter with Ancient about the amulet. It happens that it worked for just a few days after he got it. Grasshopper felt as if he had arms, as if he could do whatever he wanted, even fly. But not anymore. Ancient is intrigued and fascinated by what Grasshopper is describing, what he thought to have been the effects of that amulet. It is clear that Ancient believes that there’s no ‘real power’ in the amulet, it’s just a legend among the juniors. When Blind asked him desperately for an amulet for his friend Grasshopper, Ancient concocted one.

Grasshopper believed in that power, and, to Ancient’s amazement, he reports that it worked for a while. Now Ancient is trying to make Grasshopper feel that way again. Ancient doesn’t want to tell him that it’s all a superstition, because it appears that if Grasshopper may be able to feel that power again, to overcome his disabilities and his vulnerability.  Ancient then tells him that the amulet will regain its qualities and power if Grasshopper is willing to go through trials and do the feats he will be asking of him, such as kissing his heals from the standing up position, or not uttering a word to anyone for a full day, not even the counselors (a ritual of sorts that Ancient is inventing at the moment). Grasshopper is a bit hesitant at first, (will he be able to succeed at those tough requests?), but then he commits himself to do all that is asked of him.

Chapter 10: It starts with Blind in the forest. He is eating, experiencing the forest in a way, he meets Vulture and both see someone getting out of the house. Blind says it’s his Elephant, but Vulture says that he or it is not his elephant. Blind remembers Elk telling him to smile, that the smile is the best feature of a human, we are not a human until we smile. Blind is entranced, becoming one with the forest. He has two knives, one is beautiful -even though he cannot see, he knows it by the feel. The other knife is horrible, but Blind kept it because it’s the knife with which they killed Elk.

Chapter 11: In this chapter, Smoker visits the cage after the fairy tale night and the drinking. Smoker, Noble and Black are talking. Smoker is amazed at how strong Noble is, despite of being also a wheeler. Black tells Smoker about having let him hanging from the rails of the bed, until he fell. That made his arms strong. However, Noble doesn’t want to hear the story of that torture. Noble and Black end up fighting. Smoker is threatened with them crashing on him (since he is unable to leave the bed, and the fight is getting rough). Black becomes sick, he is in bed with a fever. The others come in the room and get the news of the fight.

Tabaqui, for some reason, has to choose between a punishment or some days in isolation in the cage. He gets a pass for the room in isolation called the cage, but he gives it to Smoker. Smoker doesn’t know what the paper means, but then he understands that it’s a pass to the cage only for those on wheelchairs. He accepts it and all those from the 4th send him with a special jacket they have, full of things. The jacket has something from each, something they each love: Moby Dick, poetry from Scandinavia, the book of Ecclesiastes, cards, medicines.

At the isolated room, Smoker sees pictures of his mates when they were little, with amulets. He sees Vulture, Humpback, and Moor and a bird, Nanette. He realizes Moor must have died not long before that picture with the bird who also died. He also figures out that the legends and the way they dress, are coping mechanisms they started to develop since they were little. Smoker has not grown up with them, he is an outsider in a way.

At this point I’m wondering if Grasshopper and Smoker are not living in different timelines. Moor is dead in Smoker’s time, but not in Grasshopper. Blind is the age of Grasshopper when we hear about him with the juniors, but Blind is with the seniors as well. Smoker came to the 4th from the 1st, the Pheasants, but at the 4th, the seniors are to themselves, there’s no rules, and Smoker is clearly an outsider to them who have been together since little. 

Chapter 12: The Sepulcher. The Sepulcher is described as a house within the house, a place where the world works differently, with its own rules, dangerous, unpredictable, younger than the house. For some it’s their last journey, for others just the beginning. Time slows down there.

Grasshopper is at the Sepulcher, -in the hospital wing. He thought he was there shortly, to try prosthetic arms. But no, he is not leaving. He looks at the inhabitants of the House playing in the snow. He can tell them apart by the colors of their parkas. Elk brought him books, but Grasshopper is bored. The nurses tell him he needs to take care of the prosthetics, and he knows he’ll never wear them. He spends his days looking through the window.

He receives a mysterious visit by someone who is running away and needs to hide.  He claims to be a ‘vampire’. Grasshopper hides him. He doesn’t look like a patient, he is just full of dirt. He claims to be a prisoner of the Sepulcher. Grasshopper wants to know what he did to have to be hiding. He says he’s tried to run away four times, with the help of a friend he won’t reveal. Of course he is not a vampire, he was just joking. Then he says he is Wolf. They both talk about how Grasshopper is bullied by the others, like Sportsman, and Grasshopper tells Wolf that, in his absence, they are picking on his friend Blind. Wolf wants to know about Grasshopper, when he came in and everything. And Wolf will tell him about them all (he seems to know him). Wolf wants to leave the place.

Grasshopper meets a girl with red hair, Ginger. Ginger takes Grasshopper to see a strange person, Death, a small tender boy. Ginger and Death are left to themselves. They talk to Grasshopper about others in the hose, such as a crazy one called White who scared the kids wrapped in a sheet with two cigarettes stuck on his nose. They talk about ghosts, and Death claims to have seen those. Ginger tells Grasshopper that Death is not making that up (the ghosts), because is a Slider. He has listened to that word before when he was asked by Splint and two other counselors, if he thought Sliders and Jumpers. But he only knows the words. Jumpers and Striders, are those who visit the House undergrounds, Ginger says, but Jumpers are thrown there and wait until they are thrown back, while Striders visit by themselves. Ginger is neither yet, but she will be one day. They both know Wolf, and they say they know about everybody, those who are there and those who are not.

Ginger tells Grasshopper he is a bit ginger too. They are descended from the same, and she admits to be the one who unlocks Wolf. Death is fragile, their favorite patient, and if anything happens to Ginger -Death’s best friend-, he’ll get very sick and possibly die, so they have impunity.

The next day they the nurses are scandalized by Grasshopper having spend the night with Ginger and Death, and having been helped to the toilet (remember Grasshopper doesn’t have arms). Elk tells Grasshopper that he has disappointed nurse Agatha. Grasshopper is worried about others thinking he is perverted because nurse Agatha called him that. Elk accepts to Grasshopper’s request to see Wolf, but on one condition, only if Grasshopper makes Wolf do all the doctors ask of him. First Grasshopper says maybe, but that’s not good enough for Elk. Finally, Grasshopper accepts, and also asks of them that they let him get out. Grasshopper also asks if Death and Ginger will ever be discharged too, and who is that senior called White. Grasshopper then enters a room with barred windows, where Wolf is. Grasshopper is doubting his choice, he is uneasy about Wolf’s reaction to him. The chapter ends with Grasshopper telling Wolf, ‘hey, hey, vampire.’

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96 comments on “The Gray House, Week 2

  1. Ack! That photo is creepy and evocative. Good find, Silvia. It really fits the vibe of this book.

    I would love to let my fingers fly and type up tons of thoughts right now, but I am utterly exhausted, so I hope to come back and say more sometime in the next couple days.

    For now, I will say that I agree with you that these are two different timelines. I am guessing they are separated by a decade or so. Many characters are the same, but the Grasshopper timeline seems full of younger kids, while Smoker’s are in their late teens. At first, I assumed the terms juniors and seniors were similar to the designations in high school, like the juniors in this book were just a year behind the seniors. But now I wonder if it is more accurate to think of juniors as primary school and seniors as secondary school. How have you all interpreted those labels? Also, while we are on the subject of different timelines: when I was introduced to Grasshopper in the second or third chapter, I wrote at the top of the page “Is this armless boy Sphinx?” Then at some point I came back and wrote, “nah.” But at this point now, I’m thinking Grasshopper grows up to be Sphinx. It’s just a hunch, but I’m wondering if anyone else thought of that possibility. The more I read on, the more I think it’s true. At one point, Sphinx was referred to as Blind’s eyes. Did he graduate from being Blind’s tail? Thoughts?

    And the last thing for the moment: They (who??) killed Elk???? I have several !!!! in the margin on that page. I was in no way expecting that. I kept wondering why he was gone, but woah. What happened? And who exactly killed him and WHY?? Who is they? Did Blind do it? Elk was God to Blind. Was he trying to kill his God? Was he forced to? Did someone else do it? I want to come back and talk about that passage later. I can type it up. It’s rather loaded. And I gotta talk with you all about the Forest and the Underside!!

    Has anyone seen the show Stranger Things on Netflix? That was my obsession last summer. I wonder if they took inspiration from this book. Did anyone else make that connection?

    Okay, I must go get out in the sun for a bit. But I will be back! 🙂

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  2. Yay! a comment, and from my Katie girl!

    Can you believe the photo is mine? I took it five years ago, I believe, in Malta. My father in law’s brother in law has a lot of land in Malta, and he has some acres he cultivates and he gave my father in law a piece for himself at that location. He had caught that mouse. They share a garage with rabbits, and they have a couple of goats too.

    I thought that too, (Sphinx being Grasshopper). I know the answer to that now, but I won’t tell you, though. I am amazed at the author. She writes in a way we both came to the same thoughts at the same point in the book.

    I was shocked to hear Elk was killed! By chapter 18, I could not stop listening, and some chapters I re-listen. I am obsessed with the book. I want to talk about it all they long. But I need you all to be in chapter 21, ha ha ha.

    I always thought about the juniors as young ones, elementary kids. Sarah Lancaster asked me if it is going to coalesce somehow. It does. The seniors are in the present, while the juniors (the elementary kids) are in the past. (Or at least that’s what the clues strongly lead us to believe by chapter 21).

    As the chapters progress, the six groups become more important. It will be important for us, readers, to try to understand why they are where they are, why they moved Smoker, and who they were before. Smoker is an outsider because he has not been since young (six years of age, they will tell us) in the house, and also because he was in the Pheasant group.

    The cage where Smoker goes, and the Sepulcher, will give us more clues as places for reprimanding or for those who are ill. But what’s the sickness, or why they get that pass to the cage, to be in isolation, where Smoker goes and sees all these things about the members of the 4th when they were younger, that we are not told. By now, chapter 21, I have an idea though of what may be going on. I also have a strong feeling about something happening that makes some of the chapters hazy or dreamy.

    The confusing information may be due to the fact that some of them have never left the house, and they don’t have a clear understanding of the world outside the House, or even outside their group -with the rules that are mentioned sometimes in each of the sections, and the “game” that Smoker thinks they are playing and that he cannot figure out well.

    I will check that series. It may very well have taken inspiration from the book. Katie, chapters 18, 19, and 20 were THE BOMB! Chapter 20 starts so poetic, so amazing.

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    • I love that it is your photo. It is so amazingly perfect for this book…a mouse in an old cage…the outdoor area that I can imagine would be the backyard of the house – except it’s not fenced in. I love the story behind the picture.

      Please don’t tell me how amazing future chapters are!! Lol. I just finished part one tonight, and I promised myself that I was not going to go on for a few days. Poor Edmund Dantes is feeling neglected. I am halfway through The Count Of Monte Cristo, and my reading of that book has totally dropped off in the last couple weeks!

      Many of your comments are intriguing. The author has really created something amazing. She does seem to be clearly leading us, but the clues are subtle. I love that we are both picking up on the same things. Now that I know that you have also wondered about Grasshopper being Sphinx, I will say that I’m also beginning to wonder if Black is Sportsman. I don’t think that came to me during the chapters assigned for this week though. It hit me in the chapters assigned for next week.

      I have felt like the house designations are important, but I haven’t been able to grasp on to explanation at this point, so I’m glad to hear that it will become more of a focal point.

      The Cage and The Sepulcher are definitely other things I’d like to talk through more. Solitary isolation for kids? And the way the Cage is talked about. It’s not a good place, yet one can “be reborn”. The Sepulcher seems to be a psych ward, but I’m beginning to wonder if inhumane things happen there. (Perhaps not surprising since many inhumane things have happened in the name of psychology). There have been comments about experimentation, not in direct relation to the Sepulcher, but things that alerted me to look out for that theme.

      Watch out, everybody. I may hit you with a barrage of musings this weekend. There is so much to make sense of and wonder about, and things are getting darker. I am so glad I can read this with others! I agree with you, I just want to talk and talk about this book!

      Stranger Things is a very different story from this, but there is an “underside” in that show, so that is what made me think of it.

      I’m a bit of a personality type junkie, and as an INFJ, I’ve been thinking lately that this may be the quintessential INFJ book – at least of this century. It is so up my alley and it makes me wonder what types gravitate toward this. Or maybe it’s just an amazing story and most people fall in love with it.

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  3. I looked at Stranger Things, but right now Netflix has a first season, and a teaser for season two. I decided not to start it, or I may fall into the pit of liking it and not being able to restrain myself from watching all the time, ha ha ha.

    I will not talk a lot, and I encourage you to make time for the other books (which I should do myself, ahem). One thing, though, I don’t think the kids when little were sent to isolation. When Smoker goes to the cage, in it he sees things than the others sent him with in that famous jacket, that’s when he sees them when young and tries to figure out who is who. What was strange to me is that only wheelers are sent to the cage (?)

    The Sepulcher seems to be a psych ward, as you say, yet Grasshopper was there to get his prosthetic arms?

    She is subtle. And the book encourages me to go back once I know more. Sarah said she would like to have the whole picture and then read it again knowing who is who, and what is what, ha ha ha. That makes sense.

    And though further chapters open our eyes to some things, more questions spring up. And nothing will be better to me than a barrage of musings, that’s something I would love!

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  4. But what was that cage? What is going on with Wolf, that Ginger girl, and the wheelchair guy they call Death?

    As for who is who, I am itching to talk about it, but I must leave it for next week, where the info (or part of it), that will allow us all to comment shows up.

    As for the types. I am not too versed on the 16 personalities (I guess my personality is the type that doesn’t remember that well, but I know I am ESFJ.

    According to the controversial yet simpler types by Carol Tuttle, I think the writer is a 2 (details oriented, so sensitive, poetic, mysterious, so much in the “past”, and linking past to present). This is just a hunch. As a 3, I do love this book because it allows all my energy and imagination to move into many different directions. But my friend Sarah doesn’t like that much (she likes her writing, but she likes, as she told me, to know what’s going on and how things fit together). I have noticed that some people do not particularly like when plots are like blood splatter -I do!, ha ha ha. They like neatly wrapped parcels.

    But, if we work on whatever our different obstacles are, I think good books like this prevail in the end.

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    • No, please talk! lol. My plan is to work out some thoughts about the book this weekend, but I won’t start part two until midweek. That way, over the next few days, I can put some time in with the rest of my stack. Yesterday, we finished our last full day of school, and I am really looking forward to a week to decompress and do whatever I want to do! This will of course include lots of reading.

      I needed to go back and review the pages about the Cage. It’s certainly an important place within the House, but I don’t fully understand it. Silvia, I hadn’t caught that only wheelers can go there, but when I was rereading the section where Smoker goes, I found the conversation between him and Black. Smoker tries to give the referral to Black and Black says, “Won’t work. It specifies a wheeler. You can swap with Noble, though. Or with Tabaqui himself.” But Black has been to the Cage before. He says he likes it there. So, I guess the resident has to fit the description on the referral. Like they aren’t supposed to be passing it off to someone else, but they get away with it? I have thought of the Cage as solitary confinement, but this chapter actually calls it quarantine. Why is there a need for quarantine? Is there threat of contagious disease in the House? Why do residents need to sometimes be separated in this manner? It is an odd room for quarantine. Empty and padded and sound proof – something more suited to an asylum. Like you said, Silvia, what’s the sickness? And this makes me continue to ask myself, what kind of a place is this? This House? It is not simply a school for disabled kids, is it?. And as an aside, I noticed in this chapter a lot of animal-like descriptions of the residents – and animals are kept in cages. The House has been referred to as a zoo a couple times. But back to quarantine: I’ve wondered if there are experiments that take place in the Sepulcher. Is it possible that when they go for their monthly physical one or more of them are given something, – a pill or drink or shot -and then they need to be quarantined (only they aren’t because they pass their referrals around)? I don’t know. Probably a long shot explanation. There are actually two Cages, blue and yellow. According to Tabaqui: “The blue one was not for the faint of heart, but did wonders for the soul, while the yellow one was just pure bliss all around.” What does this mean? Okay, new thought: maybe they are experimented on in the Cage. There is no ventilation, but there is a hole in the ceiling. They could gas them with something. Maybe different types of experiments happen in different rooms. Am I totally reaching? My thoughts are pretty far fetched. What, besides color, makes the experiences of the two rooms different? Why do they like going there? On the one hand, they live their entire lives surrounded by others; they have zero privacy, so a day or two completely alone would be bliss to many. But it also seems that it is a tough place to be – it’s refining (sanctifying?) in certain ways. Why? I don’t think it’s simply because they’re alone. Do they get fed there? And this comment of yours REALLY intrigues me: I also have a strong feeling about something happening that makes some of the chapters hazy or dreamy.”

      I think the photo in the Cage is our introduction to Wolf. He died the previous summer. Smoker says it was under mysterious circumstances. The picture: “Rather grave face, as if he knew what was going to happen soon.” This seems important: “Not that he died, or the way he died. It was the way he looked. He was home. He had a home and he was in it….Wolf had been a part of the Fourth, but no one ever mentioned him while I was there. There wasn’t anything in the room that was said to have been his. I’d forgotten all about him, to be honest.” Then he contrasts how the First and Fourth treat their dead: “The dead of the First lived in it rooms alongside the living. They were quoted, recalled fondly, their parents continued to receive the collective holiday greeting cards…Whereas Wolf had never existed, never was in the Fourth. This photograph was the first and so far the only trace of him that I had seen.” (p 125) What do you all make of this? And why did they keep the photo if they remove all traces? To whom does the photo belong? And then the second photo, as you mentioned, Silvia, gives us some clues as to who is still in the House. There is someone absent – Sphinx – and someone present who is now gone – Vulture’s twin. I can’t wait to talk with you more about who is who in the next couple weeks. I want to figure this out!

      When Smoker is in the Cage looking at the photos, he longs to feel the sense of home that the others feel. He feels homeless. Grasshopper also feels homeless and longs to fit in. I liked your narration of how Grasshopper feels in the House. Some residents love the House and can’t imagine life without it. Silvia, you commented that many of them have no experience with the outside world. I really hadn’t thought about that and what that could mean for their sense of reality.

      Maybe the Sepulcher is a hospital wing but it’s largely used for psych issues? You’re right, it is weird that Grasshopper had to stay there when he was being fitted. Why couldn’t he come and go as needed? That is very odd. Seeing has how long I went on about the Cage, I think I better save looking at the Sepulcher for another time. That chapter has so much packed into it with Wolf and Ginger and Death and the Sepulcher itself. Does anyone have thoughts on who Ginger and Death are? Is Death just his nick, or is he really death personified? Like Meet Joe Black…..

      I love hearing Sarah’s perspective. It is the reason I brought up personality type. The most enjoyable book to me is often disorienting and puzzling, if not plot-wise, then character-wise. But I can really see how The Gray House could drive some people crazy, and certainly people who are more structured and concrete may not enjoy the process of this book as much as others. Plots like blood splatter. Ha! I love it.

      Can we talk about the different “classes” of people in the House? We have the residents, of course. Then we have Counselors, Spiders and Cases. Am I missing anyone? Spiders are nurses (and maybe doctors, too)? I am a little confused about Counselors. At first I thought of them as similar to a camp counselor, but Elk is a counselor, and he seems more like a psychologist or something. Are they counselors as in therapists? Cases seem to do grunt work. Are they “cases” as in a container that carries things from here to there? Rather inhuman name. There are teachers, but we never actually meet any. And then there is Shark, and he is the principal, right? What do you make of these roles? Does anyone see their functions differently than I described?

      Which characters do you all trust? I trust Smoker, but he’s almost as clueless as we are! Beyond that, I don’t know. Sphinx, Black and Tabaqui are all sources of information, but I honestly don’t know how I feel about them. They each have things about them that make them seem less than trustworthy.

      What are your thoughts on Moon River? Does it have any connection to the song from Breakfast At Tiffany’s? Here are the lyrics:

      Moon river, wider than a mile
      I’m crossing you in style some day
      Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker
      Wherever you’re goin’, I’m goin’ your way
      Two drifters, off to see the world
      There’s such a lot of world to see
      We’re after the same rainbow’s end, waitin’ ’round the bend
      My huckleberry friend, moon river, and me

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  5. This book has me thinking about Russian orphanages. Russians in general do not like disabled people. Their orphanages fill up with children with Downs syndrome and other disabilities. I found out a bit about the orphanages when we were looking at the possibility of adopting a boy, Elden, from Russia. But then Putin banned Americans from adopting Russian children. Children are kept in the orphanages for a certain amount of time, then if they are not adopted, they are transferred to “institutions,” which are basically adult mental institutions. The whole system is awful. Children are disposable. But Putin preferred to make a political statement to allowing some of these children to become members of loving homes. In the Grey House, there are adults somewhere in the background, but these are basically feral children.

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    • Sherry, this is a fascinating perspective and really fills out some of the impressions that I’ve gotten with this book. Are our residents all abandoned? We never hear of parents visiting or of going home for summer break. Early on, when Grasshopper first came, I thought everyone else was home on summer break, but in a later chapter (I’m not sure if it was assigned for this week or next, but no spoilers…) when it is summer, the residents and counselors are all loaded on buses and they go somewhere…the seaside? I don’t remember. But they don’t go home. The only reference to parents I can think of is in the passage I quoted above about holiday cards being sent to the parents of dead Pheasants.

      PS – If I remember correctly from the AO forum, you are a fellow Wisconsinite. Is that right?

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  6. Silvia, did you know this book is part of a series? Just saw it on Goodreads. I wasn’t able to figure out the titles, because it was all in Russian. I’m totally behind on this week’s reading, so haven’t read the post or comments yet.

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  7. Wow, ladies, we need a virtual place to hang out and talk!

    Sherry, YES, I do think she has based this book on real institutions. Looking for a photo for week 4 (I have written week 3 post and I am working on week 4, can you believe it?, I even saw photos of an American institution for children, hospice slash hospital, where children were mistreated and who was operating until 1985.

    Katie, it is what you said, they exchanged passes, Tabaqui gave his to Smoker. They were for quarantined, yes. What they are quarantined for is a bit hazy.

    The sepulcher seems to be a hospital.

    I am figuring out many things thanks to your comments, since I am ahead.

    You are going to be wowed time and again.

    Many of your clues are correct, others no so much.

    Spiders seems to be the word they use to call nurses and doctors.

    The counselors appeared to be psychiatrists, as you say, but I don’t have 100 percent confirmation, they can also be counselors for the bullied, maybe that is why Grasshopper was there while also receiving his prosthetic arms.

    The clue about the postcards and the way the deaths in the pheasants are treated… dwell on this, see the difference between those in the 1st house, (ordered, they follow a nice routine), and think about why Smoker was sent to the 4th, (his nick should give you a clue, ha ha ha).

    There will be parents. Yes, the children (or youngsters) are left at the House, but some since very young, others come as older.

    I also thought they went home for vacation, but no, they just take them to another place for the summer, but those who stayed that summer formed strong ties, they didn’t like leaving the house. Wolf and Blind are attached to Grasshopper.

    Sherry. My friends have an adopted girl from Ukraine too. The people here in America had to do something because George is a lung cancer survivor, but in Russia they wouldn’t let him adopt if that was in his file. Yes, there seems to be a sector of the Russian government (I am sure this is not the sentiment of the people at all) that has that inhumane ways of looking at disability and disease. It is heartbreaking.

    Who do I trust? I do trust all of them somehow, but the problem is the incompleteness of their narrations. Later, when we know more about how they came to the house, we realize why they narrate the way they do (or that is the explanation I am concluding). Those who have not left the house, talk about those who have left as jumpers or (I forgot), but they explain that some leave when they want, others are forced to leave. That is their mythology surrounding the fact that some leave, and some are taken (as you will see later). Those who have not always been to the house, who came to it as teens, not children, or Smoker (who has not always been part of that 4th pack generation who comes from the juniors we see, the ones he sees in the photos at the cage), don’t share all those fairy tales, etc. And it is significant how some do not want to hear about life or anything outside the house.

    By chapter 26, (yes, I am half way that chapter), things start to coalesce, Sarah -if you are reading, girl. And the narrations from Tabaqui’s point of view, for example, will give us the full picture of something mentioned before. It is a wonderful puzzle, Katie.

    And Helena, in the documentary I never heard that this was a series. Actually, I read that Petrosyan gave it all with this book, and has only written a short fairy tale ever since. She said she has no other book to write. I believe we have here the labor of decades brewing in her head. She even has books of drawings and drawings of the inhabitants, the house, etc.

    I LOVE her quotes of my favorite authors, Lewis Carroll, and Kipling. I am sure the Moon River poem is connected. I want you to tell me if she got the inspiration from it.

    It is such an absorbing and amazing story. And some parts are simply beautiful. It pays to keep reading (listening, lol)

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    • You said: “Who do I trust? I do trust all of them somehow, but the problem is the incompleteness of their narrations. Later, when we know more about how they came to the house, we realize why they narrate the way they do (or that is the explanation I am concluding). Those who have not left the house, talk about those who have left as jumpers or (I forgot), but they explain that some leave when they want, others are forced to leave. That is their mythology surrounding the fact that some leave, and some are taken (as you will see later). Those who have not always been to the house, who came to it as teens, not children, or Smoker (who has not always been part of that 4th pack generation who comes from the juniors we see, the ones he sees in the photos at the cage), don’t share all those fairy tales, etc. And it is significant how some do not want to hear about life or anything outside the house.”

      Your point of view is helpful to me – calming, maybe? On the other hand, it also keeps my brain clicking. It also touches on something else I’m struggling with: is this a book with deep supernatural elements, or does it only seem that way? (As I commented last week, there is a lot of perception v. reality). Though I cannot put the pieces together, I get a vague sense of how the story could turn out to not have the supernatural elements I initially perceive, but right now there are so many unanswered questions. And at this point, I think I might feel a bit disappointed if the supernatural isn’t real.

      The emphasis you are placing on the importance of the postcard clue is intriguing. I’m not sure I’ll be able to put the pieces together on my own, but I’m sure my brain will be working on it in the background. I’ll probably start having dreams influenced by all this because my brain really does keep trying to unravel this story, even when I’m not fully conscious of it!

      I’ve noticed a few Lewis Carroll allusions too, but I’ve likely missed some since I’m not really familiar with his works. But the Chesire Cat, the Walrus and the Oysters….It seems like there was a rhyme from Alice, but I don’t remember now. And now there are references to the Great Game. While that is a real historical thing, it’s also an element in Kim! Did the song at the beginning of the last chapter of part one make you think of how Kipling starts his chapters in the Jungle Books?

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      • When I meant the references to Lewis Carroll, I meant straight quotes she chose to start off some chapters, (I don’t know his works as well as to identify those). Yes to the Great Game, and the Jungle Books, I think she loves Kipling, and some of these people in the house like Kipling too.

        Once more, the information on following chapters has me decided between supernatural and real, but I won’t tell you which one I am leaning on.

        And the postcard… it is not just that, it’s difficult to talk about it without spoilers, so I cannot talk until week 4, sigh, but I won’t complain, because I know we’ll have a summer of talking about this book as we all keep reading. (It’s hard to be ahead. At the same time, believe me when I tell you all it is not that I wanted to read ahead so much, but I have some editing and some things to take care of -a twelve year old who wants to be doing some lite lessons, classes at the co-op to prepare, etc, and I wanted to be ahead with the reading and have the posts prepared.And now I am alone -as far as I know- in knowing crucial information that narrows our possibilities and gives some certainty to some of our previous theories.)

        I know it is a bit early, but I would love, after all this reading and narrating at the blog, after the first time in which to encounter the mysteries and unveiling them, to just read the book from beginning to end without stopping or writing about it section by section. Maybe in the Christmas break, we should read it, and simply have a discussion about the whole thing when we talk about doubts, questions, theories, whatever part we like, or about the character in the book we want to talk about, etc. That will be great!

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  8. It has to be hard to have and hold all this information when I keep questioning things that you have a better view of! lol. It would be fun to read it through from start to finish without all the writing and reviewing. I mean, I love this process, and once you’ve read it once, you can’t go back to that place, so I am relishing it. But being able to read straight through and talk about everything we know at once, would be a great experience too.

    Here are some of my thoughts about Moon River in relation to the song and to Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

    In the book, Moon River is a mysterious, drug-like substance. The residents seem to hold it in awe or fear. It’s a big deal. On Fairy Tale Night, someone recites: “And then the hour comes when all the fools are placed in boats and sent up the moon river. It is said that the Moon takes them. The water near the shore becomes sweet and remains sweet until sunrise. Those who catch this hour and manage to drink the water turn into fools themselves…” Who are the fools? Some of the residents? There are a few insensible members of the house. Or are they fools for other reasons? Are they fools because they are not living in reality? Are they fools because they are dreamers and believers? We have fools in a boat and then we have individuals who turn into fools by drinking the water (drinking the moon river?) at a certain hour of the night. The fools in the boat are being taken somewhere. Where are they going? Are they in the boat because they want to be, or are they taken by force? The song, Moon River was sung by Holly Golightly, a character who lives in her own dreamy, idealistic, but sad world. Though she is a social butterfly, she is ultimately alone and lonely. The song conjurs a lot of ennui. There is a longing and a wanderlust. A desire to capture something real and true. A desire to be somewhere else. There is this idea of someday, but not yet. And of believing (perhaps naively, foolishly) that that someday is going to happen, while currently being somehow trapped in your current life.

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  9. Thinking more about individual characters. I like Smoker. I could totally be his friend. I identify with him well and I think he is a good guy. I like his sensibilities.

    The most endearing character for me is Grasshopper. Sometimes he just makes my heart swell. He is so innocent and naïve and just wants to be loved and to belong. If he is Sphinx, (and I do believe he is), I feel melancholy about that. But I guess I have to accept that growing up in that environment is going to change Grasshopper in ways that might be sad, and I suppose Sphinx isn’t a bad guy, but there are certainly things about him that are disconcerting. Despite Grasshopper’s sweetness, he desires to be the next Skull, and Skull doesn’t seem like someone to aspire to. So Grasshopper has a desire for power, though maybe it’s just so he can protect himself and those he cares about. I’m not sure. One of my favorite Grasshopper moments is when he goes back to Ancient because he was no longer feeling the amulet’s power. What he says is so moving: “It was….like arms. Not like they grew out all of a sudden. More the other way around. Like I could choose to have them or not have them. As if arms are not something everyone needs….I can’t explain. It’s like I was whole. I thought that’s how the Great Power was.” And then after questions from Ancient: “I was a bird,” he whispers. “A bird that could fly. I may walk upon the Earth when that’s what it wants, but if it decides….as soon as it decides….Then it just flies.” He believes so fully and innocently and it made him whole. Like you said, he wants so desperately to overcome his disabilities and vulnerability. Why did he lose this magic feeling? Is this merely about the power of belief, or is there more to it? When I read your narration, I realized that we never hear (at least in part one) whether he succeeds in the feats that Ancient creates for him. What were they like? How bad were the things he had to do? Did the experience harden and change him? Is that when he starts to become Sphinx? Or maybe they are rather benign tasks; I wish we knew – maybe we will eventually. There are references to torture in Smoker’s timeline, specifically in relation to Noble. Like you said, he was forced to hang from the bunk. The author called the incident torture. In next week’s reading, we hear about another incident. Are these practices standard in Four, or were they specifically directed at Noble for some reason? Because that’s what they do to newbies? And does the “torture” have its root in what Grasshopper may have experienced to try to gain his power and wholeness back? Does Sphinx employ them in hopes of giving someone power, or is it a purely sadistic thing? Also, going back to Grasshopper’s description of feeling his power – as I read it again, I’m impressed with what a key passage it is for the story at whole. I don’t think I fully know why, but I know it is. I think it is interesting that he describes himself as a bird. So many residents have animal names, including Grasshopper, and when he describes himself, he chooses to identify with an animal.

    Another Grasshopper scene that I thought was powerful comes at the end of the second chapter for this week, when a newbie comes to their dorm. He thinks he will now be accepted, and then he see how the Pack initiates the newbie. She really captures this childhood desire to belong, even at the expense of someone else. Grasshopper doesn’t want to be party to the bullying, but he also doesn’t help because he’s glad it’s not him. I love how at first he was joyful because he thought it meant the bullying was over for him, but then, when he sees that his relief means pain for someone else, he’s distressed and in despair. He is sensitive.

    “Grasshopper steps back. He is uneasy. The joy he was feeling is quickly overshadowed by despair. He is stepping closer and closer toward the door, until he’s out of the circle, out of the room, until he can see only their backs, and still he can’t erase the image in him mind, the image of the boy drooping on his crutches, the boy who has taken his place and assumed his horrible designation. Grasshopper is now standing behind everybody else. Farther behind than necessary, to show his noninvolvement. When the reitual runs its course and the boys start to drift off, he doesn’t move. He waits until the last one of them goes away, then waits a bit more and enters the dorm.”

    Anybody have thoughts to share about Blind? Right now, I have a lot of impressions and vibes that I haven’t put into words. He might be the most important character of the book and possibly a key to a lot of what is going on. Elk was hired specifically because of Blind. We discover that Blind, or maybe the Pack as a whole, kill Elk, who is spoken of as Blind’s God. As a kid in the House, Blind was bullied, but at some point, he became powerful and seems to be the head of everything and not just the Fourth.

    I really want to talk about Grasshopper’s trip to the Sepulcher, but I suppose that could always wait and be merged with a conversation about Sphinx’s trip in the next chapter.

    (Also, as an aside for you all: I pose a lot of questions, not because I expect everyone to have answers to my questions, but because it is the best way I know to formulate my thoughts. Though of course I covet any insights or further musings in relation to my questions! And if I’m talking too much – I realize I’m rather dominating the conversation – sorry!! – please tell me to chill out! LOL. It will not hurt my feelings. I can journal a lot of this to myself and just post the most important stuff here if I’m generating too much)!

    And P.S. – I can barely wait until Thursday because I’ve got to talk about the end of Part 1. Oh my goodness!! But I will not wish away my first week of summer break. I will practice patience. 😊

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  10. Katie, I am glad you too like the idea of reading it from start to finish, and talking about everything at once.

    It is special, the first reading, no doubt. It is difficult to be ahead, but not only because I have information to withhold, but because that information is in part speculation.

    However, I am enjoying tremendously all the comments. I love Breakfast at Tiffany and that song. I like that you brought it up. (I wonder how many more of this references for us readers are in this book but I am missing them). I think it has so many layers and depth, it is very well written You say if this is realism or magic, and I thought I had my mind set up on what it is, but she’s thrown another ball (or half a dozen, lol), and I am once more undecided on that topic. It all depends on what clue you take, what narrator you pick, and how you are interpreting it all.

    This book expands, and branches out so much, it is fascinating. I have read some reviews at goodreads without spoilers, -the ones in English, ha ha ha-, and it is mostly rated as a 4 or 5 stars, with an occasional 1 star reviewer who could not get into it or did not like the structure of the book or what the book tries to do to us as readers. But many remarked the way the book absorbs you into it, and how in between reading it one cannot stop thinking about it, as we are.

    I do think that when Smoker went to the coffee pot place, he was offered Moon River, -and told it was expensive-, but he was warned about its fearsome qualities, so he took a coffee instead. Noble drank it instead. And Noble ends up at the Sepulcher. When Smoker came back from the Cage, after the fairy tales night in which Smoker only wanted to drink that pine wine, Black told him of what happened to those who drink, and how Noble became paralyzed, but they watched him. At that point I thought this was a drug substance, and Noble’s episode took him to the Sepulcher.

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  11. Oh, Katie. I don’t know about the rest. I may have a totally selfish motive behind telling you to KEEP THINKING out-loud, and writing all these comments, and asking all this questions… I CANNOT HAVE ENOUGH conversation about this book.

    I think the others are quiet because they are probably a bit “behind” in their reading. Though I don’t like saying that because I am proud of my girls who are reading, and there’s truly not behind. Once they get to each week, they are free to read these posts, and free to read our comments.

    I adored that exchange between Ancient and Grasshopper. I do think you are right when you say that was crucial. I agree that it may have been Ancient ‘tasks’ the ones that made Grasshopper emerge from bullied to leader.

    Blind. Blind is the most mysterious of them all. Elk was his god, and yes, he may have taken care of Grasshopper because Elk asked him to do so, but it is obvious that they two are now inseparable, and if as you say, Grasshopper is Sphinx, and he is the leader of the 2nd, Blind seems to be the leader of ‘them all?’

    Watch out for a conversation between Smoker and Sphinx about Noble coming up. Knowing them and how they came to be where they are would be key (but I have not been given final or enough information so far). There’s a relationship between 2nd, 4th and 6th that I have not figured out. I do understand now that 1st is where the more ‘normal’? kids live, in the sense that they seem to have a regulated life, not wild, as Smoker remarked when he first made his transition.

    I also thought about how well she captured those conflicting feelings between being glad you are not bullied, and feeling bad for the one who is, that Grasshopper had. Grasshopper talks poetically. He seems to have different sensibilities than the others. He is one of those, also, who has a relationship with the House. When all the residents leave, he stays behind with a few, and yes, they leave to go to places surrounding the House, but not to the outside world. I wonder if they continued doing that the rest of the summers until they grew older. That gave him and a few others (Wolf, Blind, Elk), the opportunity to see the house when empty, to roam freely and find out things others don’t know.

    Smoker ends up in the 4th, and I like him too, I like his inquisitive personality. his openness, but I fear he doesn’t understand what’s going on, and he’s desperately trying to make sense of a whole host of things he sees, listens to, and experiences, for which he has not enough mobility or resources to understand fully. Smoker is not part of the past recounts, so, when we move to the past, we are lost having to depend on unreliable narrators.

    My frustration is the fact that I cannot look at them all or the house with a full view. But at the same time, there lies the beauty of this book, we are given clues, enough as to conclude things with certainty, but never the whole picture.

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    • Well, I’m caught up. I don’t have a whike lot to say because everything is so jumbled right now. I’m also skimming the comments because there are a few… not exactly spoilers, but certainly clues as to where it would be best to focus our attention. There is always this gray area in book discussions where we are all reading on and some things are becoming clearer, but the discussion for that section hasn’t opened up yet so we can’t talk about them.

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    • I just took a look at the list of houses at the front of the book, and Blind is listed as the leader of the fourth and Sphinx is second in command. But then it is implied that Blind is also over everything. And now I am reminded that the Fourth doesn’t have a name, and early on, I kept wondering why when the other four houses are labeled (birds, rats, hounds and pheasants).

      We haven’t been exposed to the Firsts since the opening chapter. At the time they seemed maladjusted and small minded, but now that we’ve been living with all this chaos for a couple hundred pages, I’d like to get a better view of what the Pheasants are really like. Regulated is definitely a good term to use for them. Are they so much in their safe and organized world that they have no idea what goes on in the rest of the house, beyond rumors?

      That’s an insightful thought – that Smoker’s immobility may hinder his ability to understand what is going on. I hadn’t thought about that. He relies on others, like Black and Sphinx, not just for information, but for physical help.

      Do you think the relationship between the 2nd, 4th and 6th has to do with the earlier timeline? I have had a vague sense of that, but I’m not far enough to make any connections. Is Stuffage the Fourth of the earlier years? When Grasshopper gets back from the Sepulcher and they break off, I think this causes a shift in the relationships of the houses, but I don’t have enough perspective to understand how it plays out. And I realize that I’m talking about an event that happens in next weeks reading.

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  12. Why did Sphinx treat Noble the way he did, (torturing him, according to Black), is something Smoker doesn’t understand, and we don’t either.

    I also think that the conversation and relationship between Grasshopper and Wolf was crucial. Wolf came from outside. They were looking for him. He needed to receive some treatment. They tell Grasshopper he has to go to Wolf room, and convince Wolf to do what they tell him, or have the treatment they want to give him. Grasshopper is not sure he’ll be able to make him do that.

    Do you think at this time some of them are not disabled, or just disabled, but mentally ill?

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    • Yes! I have been wondering about mental illness. Tabaqui for instance seems so manic and rather unstable. Blind eats plaster and, well, I don’t even understand about the Forest, but he seems so weird. Now I’m trying to think if there are characters who don’t have a physical disability. The two I’ve mentioned do…

      I have to go back to the Wolf section. When you say he came from the outside, do you mean he wasn’t previously living in the House, only the Sepulcher? It doesn’t seem like Wolf has a physical disability, does it? Black – I don’t think (but could be wrong) he has a disability. He’s described as morose – could have depression? What if they are all mentally ill and that’s part of the reason the narration is so crazy?

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    • And you made a good point, that the torture is according to Black, and there is no love lost between Black and Sphinx, so he could very well color Sphinx in a more negative light than is fair.

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  13. I’m reading along. I’m mostly observing until I understand the plot a bit more. Here is where personality come in…

    I don’t dislike the book. I like it very much, and her writing is sometimes beautiful. I simply don’t know which way to send my mind. I, personally, don’t like grabbing at hints and casting my mind in a million directions. It doesn’t feel like a treasure hunt to me; it feels tiring and a waste of my time. Until I see the storyline come together, I’m reading along and observing. When I have a framework I can fit the story into, then I will want to dig more deeply.

    I think the incoherence in The Gray House is purposeful. The boys are confused and turned upside down and inside out; yes, it’s partly the House and their bizarre situations, but it’s also the simple fact of growing up, forming a cohesive worldview, and finding your own place in the narrative. Since they are our narrators, we go along for the headspinning ride with them. I can handle that (although I don’t delight in it the way some people do—where other people might see possibility and mystery, I see confusion and disorder). What I’m ultimately interested in is where the confusion ends. Do we end with postmodern hopelessness that all is random and unknowable and we wallow through the darkness as best we can, or will we end with a Christian view that there is order and purpose even if we have to be turned upside down and twirled in circles before we see it, even if we can’t see it in its entirety?

    Cheers,
    Sarah L

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    • It’s really interesting to hear your perspective and how reading this book feels to you!

      I love your thoughts about the experiences of growing up and finding your place and how disorienting and confusing that can be. Thank you for bringing worldview into the discussion. In the background of my mind, I’ve been wondering what the message will be when all is said and done. I think we are most certainly dealing with Existentialism. The question is, when all is said and done, will it be closer to Camus or Dostoevsky. For me, I can very much enjoy a book that holds a different worldview than my own, provided that the book challenges me, encourages me to think about the world and what it means to be human, and helps me to solidify what I think about the author’s assertions. But, like you, if it’s just post-modern meaninglessness and nihilism, I will be bummed.

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  14. Sarah. Your comment is very interesting. I think this may be a case where the author does not position herself. I think our personalities, and ultimately, our reading of this book, are going to be the ultimate judge to where the book stands. Our different reading experiences are defining it as a wallow in darkness, or having purpose type of book. It is a very curious case, since I already see purpose, -since my personality is at home with this type of structure, I see purpose. I see, though, that the structure and way in which is written, though appreciated by you in some regards, comes across as violent, and waste of time, in others.
    You are not the first type 4 person who tells me she does not like this type of messy and non linear structure in books. (I don’t think books written by authors with certain personalities, if done well, are not going to be liked by all other personalities, but our types mark our experience a lot). My type 4 friends do not like Brothers Karamazov as much as Ivan Illich, or as much as Tolstoy (a more organized person), and they do not like Wurthering Heights, for example. But many of my type 4 friends love Jane Austen (which to me is a mystery, since I do not see the humor there as easily. But I do not dislike her, it’s just that it is not as much my author as the epileptic, completly type 3 Dostoevsky, for example).
    I seem to be like fish in water with this book.

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    • Okay, now I have to know what type I am! I love Dostoevsky too. I enjoy Tolstoy, but Dostoevsky has my heart. When I was just replying to Sarah, I couldn’t help thinking about Kafka – not because this book feels Kafkaesque to me, but I guess because of the disorientation and inability of Smoker to get a grasp on what is going on in his world and what is expected of him….well, and I was bringing up existentialism…anyway, I love Kafka as well, but I’m guessing anyone who feels out of their element with the craziness of this book, will not have a soft spot for Kafka.

      I also see purpose, but I don’t have a handle on what the author ultimately wants to say.

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  15. I am afraid you are waiting for something that will not come, Sarah. Some parts of the puzzle are solved, but a ton more are opened.
    However, it gets very interesting plot wise, as more things will happen. And (I am expressing myself so bad here), in my opinion, the plot takes shape. I would say give it until week three and let us know if you see the story coming together in a way you see light at the end of this tunnel, ha ha ha.

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  16. Ladies. I have a million thoughts racing in my head. I went to The Walmarts (smile) with girl 2, to buy her runners for a hiking she is doing with a friend and the friend’s dad, -that’s what the friend wanted for her birthday, and back home I raced to put some fish in the oven in order to come to the computer and type yet another comment…

    I ADORE Kafka, this book reminded me of him too. It also reminded me of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Cancer Ward. Cancer Ward is not as confusing as TGH. The narrative is more conventional, but we are also given vignettes and they all come together in the end. It is not that I am sure all of this will come together, but it seems to me to be a microcosm, The House, as the cancer ward was in the other book.

    I’m at a difficult position. I’m almost in the middle of the book, and this week’s section puts us at 20%, right? I saw a crescendo from this week to week 4.5, where I’m at, and there’s a load of valuable information from a reliable narrator. But I won’t say who or what. At the same time, there will be another new element. But I do believe this will all come to a closure. I say this because I am seeing up to this week, a few elements and questions that we are identifying as the ones that, if we solve them, they will explain lots of things (who they are, what is their illness or condition, why are they in the different houses, how they are different or similar, etc.)

    About the types, Katie, we are not supposed to type others, but for the sake of fun and to save time, I have typed the author of this book as a type 2, the one who loves details. Type 4 people, like Sarah, prefer to see the big picture, they are linear. Type 3 people like me, are angular, more prompt to outbursts of happiness/feeling down, that’s how I explain my love for Dostoevsky. Of course all of us can appreciate good writing. And I think she shines in how beautiful and poetic some parts are (even in translation!), that’s another quality of many type 2 people, how poetic they are. It fits with the author being a type 2, how she created this place and these people. And I can tell it was a labor of many years brewing in her head.

    I think she is communicating something. Or I better say, I already appreciate her as a formidable story teller. Nature is usually important to type 2 people, they are nurturers and homey. I don’t know if that’s the Armenian/Russian in her, but she is presenting us with a view of the world through the house.

    Don’t get to hang up on the types, at one point, the things relevant to each type are universal things, present in all of us. It is, I guess, the level of intensity, priority, or whatever constitutes your first and foremost way of living and understanding life what makes you more like this or that. But nothing explains life, novels, reading, or our taste. (That will be the day, if we were all stupidly reduced to anything! lol)

    Their life when little will determine the houses they are at as seniors, or the splits, or the enmities. And a new element also, that will show up in week 4, will also play a part on possibly, why this one doesn’t like that one, and the rivalries.

    When I said Wolf came from the outside, I meant that he had escaped, right?, they were looking for him. Maybe he did that more than once? And yes, he doesn’t seem to have any physical disability?

    This is just a theory, but, would the numbers correspond to their danger level? Not sure, and also not sure if they divided themselves, or the grown ups do that too. Smoker thought he’d be moved to the 2nd or 4th. Now that I remember, I don’t know why he did not think he’d be in the 3rd or 6th?

    Got to go again, but I’m very glad to be talking with you non stop, ha!

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    • One Day In The Life Of Ivan D. has been on my list for a while, but, as of yet, I’ve not read Solzhenitsyn. Maybe I should add the Cancer Ward to my list!

      I do not envy you for being so far ahead of us! I would burst from everything I couldn’t say! I can’t wait to find out more, but so far, I haven’t started part 2.

      “A view of the world through the house.” Yes. At this point, I can’t piece together what the world is really like, but I agree that this is true. I was surprised when you said that the residents remain on the grounds when they go away in the summer. So there must be a good amount of property behind the house. I also think about how the House is “alive.” To what degree is it alive? There is certainly a lot of personification, but is it poetic and figurative, or is there an actual living element to the House? Is it alive because of how some of the residents perceive it? How some of them love it? It would be interesting to compile all the passages that personify the House. Interesting, but I’m not going to go that far. Not quite that far. haha.

      Regarding Wolf, I see what you mean now. I didn’t imagine him having gotten out, but hiding around inside the Sepulcher, but I don’t know if she gave more specific information. He definitely seems prone to running away.

      Interesting theory about the numbers corresponding to danger levels. The Pheasants definitely seem the least threatening. Pompey in the sixth has a dangerous and creepy air about him. Wearing bats around his neck? Thinking about the house numbers makes me wonder again why there is no fifth house. It must be deliberate on the part of the author, but I don’t know the reason. Was an entire house exterminated at some point? Was there a fifth in the days of Grasshopper? The house numbers in the older timeline don’t seem as clear. It seems like Shark put Smoker in the Fourth, but in the earlier timeline, it seems like they shuffled around, almost at will. That’s my impression anyway. But how they are divided up and by whom is such a good question.

      I looked up the 4 types earlier, and I’m definitely a 2. It is interesting. You say 4 is linear and 3 angular. How would 2 be described? Circular? Twisting? Meandering? I could identify with any of those. If there’s anything I’m not, it’s linear! haha.

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      • I thought you were a two. Moves in curves or circles, maybe even ripples, not lines, not angles.

        I don’t know if the ones who go on vacation do so in the premises.That is week 3, I think . oops

        I thought Wolf was at least in the forest, because he was full of dirt when he meets Grasshopper
        Where? I don’t know, the forest?

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      • You mentioned the house being alive, and that pinged something in my brain that I have been holding onto since we first met Grasshopper. Given that the house seems to have will and sentience, what kind of bring is it? It’s holding and directing the boys. Is it more like a parent, teacher, scientist experimenting on them? It certainly doesn’t seem safe, and The Sepulcher is even described as dangerous (malevolent?). So is that aspect separate from an otherwise benign House, or is the House dangerous to some residents (and if so, which ones)?

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      • Yes, when I tried to imagine what kid of shape my personality would be, I thought of roundness.

        I thought Wolf came from the Forest too, but I’ve been thinking that the Forest is somehow inside the House. I’ve been wondering if it is somehow layered on top of the real world. Like, so it takes up the same space as the rest of the House, but it’s somehow superimposed on it.

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      • Ooh, Sarah, those are such good questions. Without having time tonight to look at specific passages, my impression is that it definitely is on the side of certain residents, but I’m not sure if it creates harm for others. I agree that it doesn’t feel safe. Does the House have god-like characteristics? Does it have the ability to will characters to certain actions? Interesting to think that it might be experimenting. So many things to consider, and I’m up past my bedtime!

        Liked by 1 person

  17. The Pheasants did not bully Smoker, they just did not want him among them anymore because he was violating the rules. Maybe the Pheasants do not fight that much because, if you remember, all of them but one who could write on the board, were wheelers.

    The pack when they are young, bullies Blind and Grasshopper, and any newbies. Next week we see what happens to the pack when Grasshopper returns with Wolf from the Sepulcher.

    Tabaqui once explained something very convoluted to Smoker, and Black ‘translated it’, not without enfuriating Tabaqui some. Tabaqui, Sphinx, Humpback, and I forgot who else, (the ones Smoker sees in those photos in his stay at the Cage), all come from the little ones where Siamese, Angel, Elephant and others were together. The times when Blind learned to smell them and feel them in order to hit them. They all feared him, the book said last week.

    Black knows more than Smoker, yes, but at the same time, Black doesn’t share all the knowledge the others have. Remember also at the Sepulcher, the enigmatic talk by Ginger, about Grasshopper being from the same ancestors. And the talk about if he knew what jumpers and sliders were? (Now that I think about this, wouldn’t jumpers be those with leg mobility and sliders those one has to take? And I’m not talking based on anything ulterior I’ve listened to. It just donged on me that jumpers would leave to the ‘underworld’ voluntarily, or make a ‘jump’ voluntarily, while sliders have to be taken and brought back by others.

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    • Yeah, they didn’t bully. It seemed more like shunning. And it’s true that they are all pretty helpless. Maybe they’ve adopted their habits and ways as a protection against the rest of the house.

      Your right, Black doesn’t know all the intimate goings on. I’m kinda confused about what he does and doesn’t know at this point. I’ve bounced around in these chapters so much that I feel like I’m starting to lose perspective. The conversation between Black and Smoker in next week’s reading is very interesting, but when I read it, I’m not sure I really go the fact that his view is more limited. It would be interesting to contrast Smoker’s talk with Black and with Sphinx. Black seems more forthcoming about what he does know. Is that because he has a degree of naivete when it comes to house issues? Or is it just because he’s not afraid. Some of the others seem fearful to explain certain things. There is an unspoken rule that certain things aren’t discussed and explained. I’m also not certain when Black came to the house. I made the guess a while back that Black is Sportsman, and that colors how I see some interactions, and I realize that I could be totally wrong. I really don’t know if Black has been their since young or not. And you mentioned how the children all feared Blind. And now he is powerful. I think this excerpt is telling; it’s from the coffeehouse talk. Tabaqui says, “Yep, See, you caught it as well. Of course it’s weird. You look at Black, this tower of power, and even he is walking in the shadow of Blind….We’re all amazed. We live side by side with him, and all day every day, we are amazed. How come – here he is, and yet, he’s not the Leader? And the one who’s the most amazed is Black himself.”

      I love Tabaqui’s verbosity. It’s hilarious. He’s so dramatic. A drama queen, really. After that big, convoluted speech – I think it’s the one you are talking about, Humpback translates, and Tabaqui says, “I was acquitting myself quite eloquently, and, what’s more important, very vividly. To try and reduce this oration to a digest is criminal.” I mean, seriously, that’s good stuff.

      When I read your original post, I was drawn to your synopsis of chapter 9 and the description of the seniors, but I’m not sure what to make of it. It is definitely important. Does the marrying and adopting refer to alliances they make? I just looked back at that passage. I didn’t remember the reference to red and black. What I had recalled was moor people and skull people. It actually says both: “No one remembered how their war had started. but they were now divided into Moor people and Skull people, red and black, like chess pieces.” (A game, again). When Grasshopper came, Elk pointed out Moor and Skull and told him to remember those names. No one remembers how the war started. At this point the reason doesn’t matter. The war itself, keeping it going, is what is important. I also assumed they were of the same ethnicity. I’m more inclined to think that the colors represent something other than skin color. I was going to wait and bring this up when I (someday) get around to talking about the Sepucher, but Ginger tells Grasshopper that gingers are descended from Neanderthals and the rest from Cro-Magnons. (Elk was a ginger and so is Grasshopper). I don’t know what any of this means, but it must mean something! I had to look this up: Neanderthals are more primitive and a different species, while Cro-magnons are our earliest ancestors. But this seems like a separate thing than the division between red and black, moor and skull. Maybe the red and black is a reference to the chess pieces. We are most accustomed to white, but there are red and black sets. Might they be more common in certain countries?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Katie, Yes, there’s topics they don’t touch.

        I love Tabaqui’s verbosity too. Have you picked one of them you think you are? I would be Tabaqui. 🙂

        You are right, the marrying and adopting is between them.

        I like your explanation with the chess colors red and black, and the association with Moor and Skull. Elk tell Grasshopper that, remember those names.

        Sarah,
        I don’t know what type of being the house is. I know some of them regarded as alive. As for the dreams and hallucinations?, I think they feel the house alive because of the secrets it contains, what it means to them, the way they interact with the walls.

        Katie,
        It could be that the forest is part of the house, yes. But there’s a wall too. Next week we get the description of the front and backyard, but the house may well contain a forest.

        I think they don’t like the sepulcher, Sarah, because they don’t know it as the house, and they are not free in it. If it is a hospital wing, they may fear that some don’t come out of it. There’s an aura of mystery around it for sure.

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      • Which character would I be? Probably Humpback. We haven’t heard that much about him, but what we do know resonates with me. I love that you are Tabaqui. Fun! I can’t wait to start reading his chapters in part two!

        Liked by 1 person

  18. What do you all make of my synopsis of chapter 9? The House belonged to the Seniors. Counselors exist to maintain order, and teachers to entertain them and No one would tell them off. They could marry and adopt each other at will. (What does this mean?) They invented their world, they started a war, and nobody could enter their world. They were divided between red and black people. When they have their wars, they lock the juniors in their dorms. The seniors forget to unlock them after their battles, and they have to wait for the counselors in the morning.
    Because there’s a guy named Black and a guy named Red. What makes them black and red? (Is there different races in the house?) I always thought they shared ethnicity.

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  19. Did anyone notice that the group in his picture was a mixture of all the houses? I assumed they were directly sorted into houses when they arrived (I’ve probably read too much Harry Potter), but I guess not. In that case, I wonder how the choosing happens, when, and why Smoker was apparently sent to the wrong house.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Now I believe it possible that they created the houses themselves by choosing dorms, certain floors, and leaders. I think they are sent to the different sections, bit at the same time, who and how did the sections started? That I am not sure.

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  20. I just keep thinking of British Public Schools as I read. I see boys in quint uniforms–or various stages of off-duty dress–in ages old buildings like at Eton or Winchester. Then I think of the bullying that goes on and the nicknames and the rest of it. It also reminds me a bit of Catch-22 (which I haven’t ever finished). Thankfully, I’m nearly caught up, as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Good afternoon Silvia:

    I’m the translator of “Gray House”; came here from the book’s page on Goodreads. If you think I might be useful to you and the club, please let me know.

    Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Mr. Machkasov, my heart skipped a beat when I saw your comment.

    For starters, I cannot tell you how much we all THANK YOU for translating this book into English.

    All of us find the writing beautiful. I wonder how your experience translating this book was. Do you know the author?

    I have lots of questions to ask you. I would love to interview you or have you tell us what YOU want to tell us about translating the book, your Amazon author’s blurb says it took you two years to translate this book, what was the most difficult about it all, how did you come to this project… But I do not want to impose on your time, and we have not finished reading it.

    This was such a special visit.

    Thanks for stopping by. I am so thrilled!

    Like

    • Just Yuri, please. And thank you!

      I was immensely surprised myself when I found that the book had been translated into Italian and Polish, but not into English. I thought I’d just do it for myself then (well, and also for my sons – they are bilingual, but getting them to read in Russian is a chore, and I wanted to share this book with them). Only after I’ve finished did I seek out Mariam’s agents (to ask what would the terms be for me to print a small run), and learned that they tried to sell it to everyone in US and UK, but only had the first chapter to show them – which naturally didn’t arouse anyone’s interest. Once they got the entire thing in hand, they had three offers within a couple of weeks, and one of them was Amazon.

      The experience was almost exactly how Mariam herself described hers – I was in a world that I could visit (every night after work and more freely on weekends). I’m still rereading the text in random places almost daily, not able to let go of it (and still discovering things I missed).

      I only corresponded with Mariam by e-mail, starting from about halfway point in my work, but got to meet her this February in Paris where she was one of the guests at the Days of Russian Culture and presented the French translation, Maison dans laquelle.

      I would certainly be happy to answer any questions, both after you’ve read the book and in the process – just let me know what the most convenient form for that would be.

      Thanks again.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! But this is most likely the property of the book itself; I can imagine that it comes from constantly revising it for so many years, but I figured out early on that every word was exactly the right one in exactly the right place, so my work was in a certain sense easy, or at least well-defined – to say the same words, only in a different language.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. I cannot contain my excitement.

    A friend shared this Russian documentary, https://youtu.be/vRPDM7OTMrI, and this book and how she came to write it, sounded fascinating. I just learned that the book wasn’t in English, and I did not think about the possibility of it having been translated into Spanish. Two years later, I was still talking about it at a park. At home, I searched for the book again, and I realized it had been translated into Spanish (I was born in Madrid) already, and your translation was going to be released in two months time. I then recruited my reading friends to read along with me.

    My initial idea was to get the Spanish copy, but since I was going to lead the discussion, I opted for the English.

    And we started the book. I decided on a ten week schedule, and divided the audio. My friend Sarah helped me to divide the book pages.

    I liked it from the beginning, but it is true that the book gains momentum the more you read it.

    I am on week 5, which is about half of the book, and I am (as other reviewers comment), obsessed with it. I also live in the book. Whenever I have long drives, or house tasks ahead, I listen to it. I have listened to some chapters many times, and they are as new. I want to know more, yes, but at the same time, I am happy to revisit any of the already listened to parts.

    It is beautiful, and very generous with the readers. We are intrigued by many things, and we wish we could all be in the same place and time to talk non stop about it.

    Mariam offered to us a fascinating universe, and you made it possible for us to know it and enter it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Welcome to the House! It obvlously has let you in.

      The Russian publisher just keeps ordering more print runs, as the book spreads out. BTW, they’ve just had a special edition out, illustrated by the readers; there’s some amazing stuff. And people aren’t cosplaying Harry Potter over there, they’re cosplaying Blind and Tabaqui.

      Liked by 1 person

      • LOL! That is so nice to hear! I am happy to hear the book is spreading out by its popularity among the readers. I hope all the other translations do as well.
        I found different covers, and I enjoyed seeing the different covers and the different titles. Oh, that’s a question! What made you translate it The Gray House (The French and the Spanish translated it The House of the Others, but as I type, I can see Gray House captures your attention to exactly the House, while The House of the Others is vague. And the Italians translate The House of the Suspended Time. And that may give me another piece of information I have not found yet in the book. Only a fleeting answer that Sphinx gave Blind about a vendor machine. But that is week 5.

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    • Amazon marketing department made me, in fact. The original title had to do with the nursery rhyme, “In the House That Jack Built”, but for some reason the order of words had been switched around by the Russian publisher, so instead of “In the House That” it became “The House In Which”. I actually wanted to restore the allusion, and submitted “In the House That”.
      And then, after they’ve made the decision, it turned out that in the very beginning, while the book had no title at all, Mariam referred to it in her head exactly as “Gray House”. So, we did restore it, only to an even earlier time.

      Liked by 3 people

  24. Yuri, thank you so much for sharing your time with us. I also want to echo thanks for your translation. Even when I’m completely confused by the plot and the world of the House the beauty of the words themselves are an anchor. I’m underlining left and right because the language is just so beautiful and evocative!

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      • I don’t have any questions… that I want answered. 😉 The split timeline and mystical elements and fluid geography of the story are spinning my head in circles, but I want to find my way through the House and experience it all for myself as I read. I’m kind of falling in love with the characters, so I’m willing to go along for the ride with them.

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  25. I just sat down for a coffee break, picked up my book to start the new section, and remembered something Silvia asked a couple days ago that I had wanted to respond to.

    She said, “Black knows more than Smoker, yes, but at the same time, Black doesn’t share all the knowledge the others have. Remember also at the Sepulcher, the enigmatic talk by Ginger, about Grasshopper being from the same ancestors. And the talk about if he knew what jumpers and sliders were? (Now that I think about this, wouldn’t jumpers be those with leg mobility and sliders those one has to take? And I’m not talking based on anything ulterior I’ve listened to. It just donged on me that jumpers would leave to the ‘underworld’ voluntarily, or make a ‘jump’ voluntarily, while sliders have to be taken and brought back by others.”

    Ginger says, “Jumpers are kind of thrown there, while Striders can get there by themselves. And also go back whenever they want. Jumpers can’t, they have to wait until they’re thrown back.”

    So, it’s Striders, not Sliders. Strider (which makes me think of Aragorn, though it’s probably not an intentional reference) has an air of authority and confidence about it.

    The beginning of part two has a new list and this one shows who the Striders and Jumpers are. Have you seen that? I will post it below, so spoilers ahead for those of you who haven’t finished part one yet.








    Striders: Blind, Sphinx, Tabaqui, Red, Sleepy
    Jumpers: Noble, Tubby, Vulture, Butterfly, Beauty, Elephant, Ficus, Shrub, Corpse, Zebra, Dawdler, Owl, Shuffle, Flipper, Crybaby, Piddler.

    Not every house has Striders, but they all have at least two Jumpers.

    I wonder if Pompey was one. He’s obviously not on this page. So, at the start of book two, The Sixth has no leader, and the Pheasant leader, Gin, is the only one who does not go to the Underside.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. I may never actually get to my reading….I keep thinking of things I wanted to say. The topic of Time came up last night. I started noticing Time references at some point and marked them. I’m quickly scanning my book and will note important passages below because I think there is definitely (I am realizing that I keep using that word in this conversation….I need to find a new one!) something going on with Time in relation to the Underside. So, here’s a few:

    During Fairy Tale Night, the person that was talking about the Great Hairy ended by saying, “It looks like a small black cylinder. (the entrance to the Underside, maybe?) It cannot be seen by sunlight, and it definitely cannot be seen in the dark. One can only bump into it by accident. Every night it hums softly as it steals time.”

    In the chapter, The Forest: “The smells of the meadow returned. Time rushed past. Gray House lurked within its own mute walls.”

    And this closes that chapter (after Blind looks at the knives): “He (Blind) was almost out of time. THe night was fading away. The Forest was quickly devouring it. THe hallway, the doors, the silence. THe first sounds of morning were on the cusp of bursting in, and then he would be invisible no more. It was an unpleasant thought, and it made Blind hurry up.” (This is one of the things that makes me think maybe the underside is superimposed on the real world – Blind is invisible, but he soon won’t be).

    Introducing the Sepulcher: “For some it is their last journey, for others – only the beginning. Time itself slows down there.”

    This is from Sphinx’s chapter: “The mirror is a mocker. Purveyor of nasty practical jokes unfathomable to us, since our time runs faster. Much faster than is required to fully appreciate its sense of humor.”

    (We should also get around to talking about mirrors sometime. Man, we need a coffee meet-up, or maybe a week long conference. LOL. I don’t know how we will ever be able to touch on everything that is important, but we’re doing pretty good, here)!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Guys! I just reread the quotes I posted. Sphinx’s statement (which I love, by the way) makes me wonder – when they go to the Underside…are they their younger selves? Why does Sphinx call the mirror a mocker? Could it be that he can’t get used to his grown up self because he spends so much time in the underside as his younger self?? This is not the first time he’s talked about mirrors and the illusions they create.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, we need a conference, a retreat to discuss the book at leisure.
        But now I am at the pool, frustrated because I want to type a million thoughts, and I am limited to this phone…
        So it is Jumpers and Striders, and the Striders seem to be the important guys.
        I’m going to be paying attention to the time references. I am thinking now that maybe they travel in time through the house?
        Back to the realism or magic. What if there’s both? I see both right now. I guess we could explain the magic as a perception of mentally ill ones, or drug induced, but I think there’s some supernatural element, or that’s the way I CHOOSE to read it, ha ha.
        Have you all relaxed about the book? (II mean, after Yuri said how carefully each word was picked, I now know there’s meaning all over, meaning to be found moving forward, and backwards too.
        I know some teens are ready for this book, but this is serious literature for adults.
        This had not happened to me with a book in a long time.
        Mirrors. Through the Looking Glass. Yes, the House is expanding and contracting in (or through) time and space.
        I found lots of art, Yuri referred to that. There’s lots of drawings, but I stopped because some depict things I have not read yet.
        The first time reading it is special, I want to savor it. I think I will go back to week 3. I don’t want to advance so much alone.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I like your suggestion of time travel. I’m trying to imagine what you mean about the House expanding and contracting. Is it something that comes up later or is it the way you are imagining the events taking place? I really want to see how this plays out!

        I was going to start part two, but I ended up getting caught up in Sphinx’s chapter, so today, I’m just going to peruse the chapters that we get to start talking about tomorrow. I’m taking notes and have too much to say! 😁

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      • It was just my way of expressing that time seems to behave differently, nothing in the book about it. I was trying to see if it’s just flashbacks, or if they live in two different times, and one space, or two times and two worlds. Just conjecture at this point. I left it at the end of week 5, and I saw more about time and important information about the past, but I didn’t go that far and I cannot talk about what I got.

        But I am getting ready for the next section post, yes!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I was curious because I really liked how you said that. I could sense the essence of what you meant, but had a hard time grasping the particulars.

        I am such a nerd. I started a Word doc that I’ve been typing in this afternoon as I reread Sphinx’s Sepulcher chapter and it’s currently at 2,227 words….for one chapter. 😆 I will try my very best to edit it down for you all before I post. 😇 It’s hard.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Lol.
        Katie. Don’t edit your word doc.
        Would you mind emailing it to me? I would to publish it in full too, not just in the, comments, but if you agree, of course, in the same post or a different one (mine is scheduled and I don’t know if this proposal will be accepted by you on time ). I so love to read about the book, and the more the merrier.

        Liked by 1 person

  27. I’m getting a bit confused, yet it is so interesting. On the Kindle edition, different sections have different fonts, which I found interesting. Is it like that in the print version? I’m going to read today and get all caught up! I’ve written a few things down in my commonplace, but now I’m all over the place. I found the part with Grasshopper and Wolf in the Sepulcher fascinating for some reason. I’m going to read the comments I missed here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amy, I ordered myself a paper copy, because I read that the different fonts are to indicate when the book is in the past, when they were young, or in the present.

      I am glad to hear the Kindle also has the different font.

      The audio doesn’t, but by now, I know that the sections with Grasshopper are the past ones, and by the characters I know roughly where I am at.

      Liked by 1 person

  28. I had to look up denizen. I loved the Forest part for some reason…these lines jumped out to me, “A smile meant a light switching on inside.” and Blind: The Forest was walking alongside him, swaying its treetops far above, dropping its dew on the warped floorboards.” – Is the Forest in Blind’s imagination? or part of the house…like a Living House??? This book is throwing me for a loop and stretching me! LOL!!! 🙂

    Like

    • Denizen, I had to look it up too.
      The language is beautiful, and that’s thanks to both Mariam and Yuri.
      You just gave us all a clue with that passage. Is the Forest an area of the house?, in their imagination?, or part of their hallucination?
      Sphinx found Wolf running away, full of dirt. There’s an outside, the backyard, the rooftop, the area at the front… but the Forest where Blind and Humpback go to?, where or what is it?
      It’s stretching me too. Summer mental gymnastics, but oh, so much fun!
      Week 3 is published!

      Liked by 1 person

      • You guys are amazing (really, I mean it). I’m lurking patiently, but man is it ever hard not to jump in and start explaining (smile)

        Liked by 2 people

      • LOL. Just you saying that there’s explanation to be offered, keeps us all excited.

        (Have you read our week 3 narration? https://silviacachia.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/the-gray-house-week-3/ (That is a loaded section, with the visit of Sphinx to the Sepulcher.

        We definitely should have a celebration at the end of the first reading, in which we can all talk our hearts content, and where you can surely add your insight and participate. I am looking forward to it! (But I also want to enjoy this time of discovery.)

        Liked by 1 person

    • We haven’t talked to much about the Forest. I love the sentence you quoted. There is so much physical happening. I have a hard time believing that it’s not a physical place, but I’m keeping an open mind. Plus, earlier on, someone commented to Smoker how Blind always bring ticks and fleas into the dorm. He said he is sometimes covered with them. Y

      “It was all grass, if you stopped to think about it, all flesh was as grass and nothing more.” Did this remind anyone else of The Psalms – like grass we live for a day then whither and die. Earlier, in Humpback’s chapter, I noted an inversion of that Psalm.

      What are we to make of the Elephant coming through? There is a resident named Elephant in Vultures house. He seems to be running out of the Forest back into the House. Vulture says he wouldn’t be out at night. He’s too scared of being alone. He does seem spooked. Vulture says it’s very strange and not a good sign. Not a good sign that Elephant would go in by himself? Not a good sign that he seemed like he was fleeing?

      And this is significant, though I have no idea what it means. The part apart “the old ones” seems tied to part of Sphinx’s paragraph about losing your humanity when you become a patient:

      “Just as I thought. An odd fellow. I wonder what it was that he wanted.”

      “Past tense already?” (a reference to time moving differently in the Underside, I guess)

      “So it would appear. He is not one of the old ones, and that’s all there’s to it. Take us, for example. We know things, even if we don’t exactly know what it is we know. He doesn’t.” (Are they old ones?)

      “I think the words are getting the better of you.” (Does he mean the writing on the walls?)

      “As does everything lately. It’s a weird old thing, the world. And you are saying that it was Elephant rambling past just then, like a rhino with a screw loose. What am I supposed to make of it? You know I’m scared of things like that. Harmless little Elephant goes out at night sniffing, for some reason…Now what do I do? I’m upset, you see. I guess I’d better check on him.”

      The passage about smiles ends with a reference to the Cheshire Cat. “He knew now what Alice must have felt when the Cheshire Cat’s toothy, sarcastic smile was floating in the air in front of her. That was how the Forest smiled. From above, in a boundless mocking grin.” So the Forest is like the Cheshire Cat. The cat can disappear and reappear. He speaks in riddles. He’s mischievous – sometimes he helps Alice, sometimes he gets her in trouble.

      Liked by 2 people

      • The Forest must be real. They talk about it, they even bring things from it, as you say. Where does it start, and where does it end, that we do not know.
        There is this thing about those who go outside in the night and what they do out there. Everything has this duality, help-gets in trouble, the Sepulcher and the Forest. Their legends are about the Forest, and basilisks they have not seen, (or claim to have seen), and they are divided between those who fear going to the Forest, and those who feel themselves one with the Forest.
        The Forest is scaring me. Now I feel like Lord of the Flies. What is going on? What is that the old ones do not know. It is like this big Elephant in the room nobody wants to talk about but they all know it is there. Now we see it, now we don’t.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I have long been thinking that it would be very interesting to map out the house based on the descriptions throughout the book. I wonder if anyone has done that. I’m not sure if there is detail enough for a full picture, but she does give us a lot. I am not a spatial person, so I’m not even going to attempt it, but the fact that the House is a main character of the book makes me very interested to see a physical rendering.

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      • I wonder too if some have mapped the House. I know there are many drawings, but I do not recommend we go there until we finish, even a full map of the House (if it exists or if it is possible), may at this point have spoilers.

        Liked by 1 person

      • And concerning the map of the House: Mariam herself tried drawing it, long after the book had been finished, and couldn’t. Also, my editor caught a direct contradiction in the way the sequence of the rooms was established in two different places in the text (I didn’t); we corrected it, but who knows if there aren’t more.
        Brings to mind Hogwarts, of course, except the House existed before JKR ever set a foot in that cafe.

        Liked by 1 person

  29. Katie, I loved that part about the Forest and was also intrigue by Elephant going in…I’m amazed at your memory. I have to write something down in order to remember it, or it’s a jumble. Oh wait, it sounds like you type thoughts out? I think I did myself a disservice by getting the Kindle version. 😦 I almost always regret Kindle. Gah. Because I’m one of those crazy people who marks up real books, notes things, and sticky notes things. I absolutely LOVE maps and that is a fantastic idea. I’m getting a little bogged down with characters, like forgetting who they are etc…for some reason, the nicks are more confusing to me than names??? Or maybe it’s the timeline shifts. Can you explain the Underside idea? I’m lost on that! Did I miss something? LOL 😉

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    • Oh, I am totally a mark the book to pieces kind of reader. I don’t have a very good memory, but I read actively and go back to find things I’ve previously read. One of the reasons I don’t like reading on a Kindle. The physical book definitely makes it much easier with this crazy book.

      The Underside is a place that some of the residents can go to. It seems like another dimension within the House. The Forest is part of it. We don’t have a full picture of the Underside at this point. It’s just bits and pieces. I think we start getting a better picture when Grasshopper is talking to Ginger and Death. She explains what Jumpers and Striders are. Striders can go to the Underside at will, Jumpers are “thrown there.” Sphinx talks more about it when he is in the Sepulcher. We learn that Fairy Tale Night is where they are allowed to talk about the Underside, albeit cryptically. Otherwise, they aren’t allowed to talk about it.

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    • Wow, I don’t know why I didn’t look that up sooner. I just assumed he was named that because of the armless nature of the Great Sphinx. Fascinating that it sometimes has the wings of a bird. Remember Grasshopper’s description of how it felt when he had his power??

      “The Egyptian sphinx was viewed as benevolent, but having a ferocious strength similar to the malevolent Greek version and both were thought of as guardians often flanking the entrances to temples.”

      So which one is he? Benevolent or malevolent? You know that once I heard Black’s side, I started having bad feelings about Sphinx, but I don’t know if they are fair. Is Sphinx a guardian? If so, of what? He is Blind’s right hand man. Does he guard Blind? Does he guard the Underside?

      “Sphinxes are generally associated with architectural structures such as royal tombs or religious temples.”

      The Sepulcher is a tomb. Does Sphinx have a special relationship with it? Are there religious aspects of this book? Temples? Can we call places like the Forest a temple?

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      • I think he does have a special relationship with the Sepulcher.
        What if some nicks are allegoric?, like Death. If Death is the favorite patient of the Sepulcher, maybe it is because the nurses and grown ups want to keep Death there, and not in the House. I mean, the wish to die, to commit suicide, or to take substances that will kill you?
        Do you think Grasshopper felt powers when he took something? Do you think the flying feeling is induced? Who is Ginger. Is she there, at the Sepulcher, not to mix up with others and keep Death at bay? Remember the nurse that called Grasshopper perverted after spending the night with Ginger and Death, and how he did not want to be thought of as depraved? (Just because Ginger had to help Grasshopper to use the bathroom, and the nurses did not like that at all). Who did the nurses see, if Ginger makes her quarters with Death invisible?
        Grasshopper also seems to be Wolf’s guardian.

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      • I’m thinking about Ginger’s name now. We have the root of course, and that has a lot of health related benefits. The name is also related to hair color. There are certain people in the story who are gingers, but she is Ginger and a ginger. Did you know that some people believe gingers have no soul? (I’m so glad we’re talking about all these names today!! All this discovery is huge)! Thanks to urban dictionary, I now do.

        Get this:

        “It is highly believed that gingers have no souls and that in order to live they must steal souls from other people, although this has not been proven.
        It is also believed that gingers are actually vampires since they have a high sensitivity to the sun, but this has not been proven either.

        Many also say that Gingers have no feelings and are incapable of showing any emotion.

        It has, however, been proven that gingers are an extremely awesome sub-species of humans that are usually “hated” by many non-gingers because they are just jelly of them.

        Gingers are typicaly fire-loving, wild, smart, loud (though some are quite) mutan humans who have a high pain tolerance.”

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      • I think I’ve totally gone down the rabbit hole a this point, but it seems that there is also some relation to red heads and ancient Egypt. It could be important because of Sphinx. In one place, I read that Egyptians would kill red headed babies because they thought they would steal the brilliance of the sun. Another said they buried them alive as sacrifices to Osiris. In another place I read that it’s been discovered that some of the mummies were red haired, and that there are drawings of Cleopatra with red hair. Ancient Greeks believed red heads turned into vampires after they died. (Wolf claimed to be a vampire, but I think he has gray hair?)

        And how about this Mark Twain quote: “while the rest of the human race are descended from monkeys, redheads derive from cats.”

        And this about Neanderthals, the group Ginger claims to be descended from: Scientists now report that Neanderthals had a version of the gene that causes red hair but not the same variant as in modern humans, suggesting they did not interbreed with each othe

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      • I like your take on keeping Death in the Sepulcher. I recently noticed that there is a sick bay on one of the floors of the House. The second floor maybe. I wondered why when they have the Sepulcher. But maybe acute illnesses are treated in the sick bay and only serious problems are dealt with in the Sepulcher?

        Maybe Ginger is like the Cheshire Cat. Maybe she can disappear at will.

        What do you think Grasshopper would have taken? Where would he have gotten it from? It was before he ever went to the Sepulcher, right? I don’t remember now: did Ancient give him anything to ingest when he was making the amulet?

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  30. Yuri, I guess the House doesn’t let us map it, or map her. A blue print is not enough for this living House!
    I am impressed to hear your editor caught on a contradiction in the sequence of the rooms.
    If we could get Magnus Carlsen to read the book, I bet you he will give us that map, or tell us if there are any other contradictions in the sequence of the rooms, though it may end up being a map that only he can read, lol.

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  31. And some of the nursery rhyme the book title in Russian refers to, The House That… (Jack built).

    This is the house that Jack built.

    This is the malt
    That lay in the house that Jack built.

    This is the rat,
    That ate the malt
    That lay in the house that Jack built.

    This is the cat,
    That killed the rat,
    That ate the malt
    That lay in the house that Jack built.

    Like

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