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Reading Group Discussion Questions

Identity and Self


What definition of the word "identity" is most compelling to you?

Is there a definition of "identity" that best encompasses its senses of "distinctiveness", "label", "category", "affiliation" and "self"?

How does Abe's repeated musing about the idea of "Yankee" comport with the various senses of the word "identity"?

Explain what you suspect Abe's conception of "identity" might be.

Google the term "fragile identity" as some are now applying it to the concept of "whiteness". Try to relate the "identity" of "whiteness" to ideas of race, class, ideology, biology, and culture.

Google "beyond freedom and dignity".

  • What would Abe Ider say about any "technology of human behavior"?

  • Where would he (or you) agree or disagree with B. F. Skinner's argument against the "autonomous" human?

  • What about the idea that culture can be "engineered"?

  • How do these arguments line up with your understanding of conflicting political affiliations in the contemporary cultures of various nation-states and national/racial identities?


How many different names can you find for

  • Avarm Ider

  • Gretchen Ider

  • Carol Ann Olgivy

  • Stanislas Imerese

How does this inform or distract from your reading experience?



Word Choices and Style


How many adverbs are used in the first paragraph?


What is the critical “case” against adverbs?


Which uses of an adverb in the first or second paragraph needlessly bulk the prose without conveying additional or important meaning?


What other literary purposes (besides conveying meaning, intention, or imagery) might be served by packing a line or sentence with modifiers?

  • Can you find examples of alliterations and assonance in the “Teardrop Collider” section?  

  • What about pacing, meter, and rhythm?

  • How do these nonliteral considerations add or detract from your reading experience?


What are your reactions to the following words as used in the introductory sections of Saint Gredible and Her Fat Dad’s Mass?

  • grope

  • waggle

  • bookjew

  • asseated

  • attenuated

  • schtup

  • unlaced

  • bialy

  • whine

  • corpuscles

  • peer

  • perverse


Abe does quite a bit of idiom switching into what sometimes might be considered “private languages of his own”.  What does this say to you about his character?


Which “Abeism” do you find most

  • amusing/interesting

  • annoying

  • irresponsible

  • telling?


How does Abe’s use of language affect your reading experience?


How would you describe the idiom/dialects used by Stanley, Carol Ann, Zlottie, and Greddy?


Other Tropes and Themes


The first two sections of this book are entitled “The Teardrop Collider” and “Skates of Matter”.  The first two sections of Joyce’s Ulysses are entitled “Telemachus” and “Nester”.  Can you find common tropes in a comparative reading beyond the “obvious” entanglements of  “corpuscles” and “pier”?


Google Alexander Pope's poem An Essay on Criticism, composed in 1709 and find the usage of the word “Pierian”.  How would you apply this to Avram Ider and his discourse on identity and particle physics?

Einsteinian Relativity and Quantum Physics are two primary theories of modern physical science which both overlap and are incompatible. The equations of Relativity suggest that matter and energy are ultimately fungible with both exerting a distorting effect upon spacetime which can be described using the equations of gravity. The equations of Quantum Physics describe with eerie accuracy the probable “behavior” of units/”corpuscles” of matter and energy without regard to gravity. Quantum equations also suggest that “units” of matter and energy only appear as particles/”corpuscles” with measurable locations or velocities under certain (extraordinary?) circumstances.  How do such considerations influence your understanding of Abe Ider’s stance toward the challenges of parenthood, relationships, language, and existence?


Assuming you do not know that Abe is the child of an Auschwitz survivor, what (in the “Skates of Matter” section) might suggest to you that the topic of “NAZIs” is never far from Abe’s mind or conversational repertoire?  How does the topic of “NAZIs” get introduced into Abe’s ponderous discourse?

In the "Squirrel with Pearl Earring" section, how are the following themes addressed?

  • inheritance

  • creativity

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