Pulitzer Book Club Inclusion Guide
"A Summons to Memphis" by Peter Taylor
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Peter Taylor was born in Tennessee; his prominent father was a lawyer, insurance company president, U.S. Senator and Tennessee governor. Taylor attended Vanderbilt, was a WW2 Army vet, and worked for an NYC publisher
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Featured Reader Wanted!
– Share your key take-away about inclusion in this book in a sentence or two.
– Write a paragraph or two (up to 250 words) to describe your thoughts on exclusion/inclusion in the book, why you related or did not connect with the book, and why you think reading, inclusion and dialog about inclusion matter.
– Identify the name and website address of a cause you support with an inclusive mission.
Adult siblings want to revenge-block elderly widow father’s remarriage
Father calls suitor Wyant a likely deceiver and ends his daughter’s marriage before it starts.
Southern lit take on a dysfunctional toxic family, marriage and ageism without Southern dialect.
Short at 209 pages or 6+ listening hours
Don’t forget. Not feasible to mentally delete bad history or possible to make things better without acknowledging wrongs.
Debutante country club world of a White family who moves from Nashville to Memphis. A few references to Black servants who moved with the family from their slave ancestor’s country plantation to Nashville to Memphis. People judged on age, dress, marital status, socio economic status, place of birth, family history, and bookish-ness. Patriarch thwarts marriages he deems unsuitable.
Food is not the center of the universe here; it’s all about who you’re with and what you’re wearing.
“Could it be, he put to me in his rhetorical, academic way, that during the past two decades when the world was learning to recognize the rights of young people and the rights of women and the rights of the colored races it has also learned to respect the rights of old people – the right at least an old widower to live out his life as he chose?”
Should feel like neighborhood bar/disco meets Southern country club propriety. DIY Blue Moon, Yellow Parrot, or Red Lantern signage.
What did we learn about the servants in the novel? What did the servants reveal about the attitudes and character of the family members?
Compare gender roles in novels that center of Victorian courtship to the women and men in “A Summons to Memphis”? Why all the emphasis on marriage and courting?
Discuss how the widowed octogenarian and his “stout” spinster middle-aged daughters and their dates dressed and behaved in night clubs and country clubs. What constituted propriety? Independence? Why pursue faux promiscuity?
Why do the “wild” virgin spinster sisters choose the company of younger escorts in nightclubs and “effeminate” dates at balls and the country club? Why brag on “lurid nonexistent, middle-aged love affairs”?
What flavors of acceptance did the siblings and parents have for each other? How is it possible to resist what a parent wants? Being an adult who lives as an injured adolescent?
How and why did family members and society exclude each other?
How would you imagine these characters behaving toward each other if this novel were set in another part of the country or during contemporary times?
Explain the different reactions at the unexpected reunions. Father embraces his bonding-defaulting, mortgage dirty dealing former partner; rest of family averts eye contact. Phillip does not speak to his first love; neither does rest of family.
Were/are Holly and Phillip free sprits? Why/why not? What’s changed and not changed in the South during your lifetime?
Start in Nashville and do some serious people watching, then drive to Memphis and do the same. Be sure to check out speakeasy surrogates and other places where people gather, meet, and dance. Try to get to a Vanderbilt football game. Think about the similarities and differences you notice between the people in Nashville and Memphis.
TV/Film adaptation not found.
1996 “A Woman of Means: A Novel”