August 2017 Book Club Book: Stephen Florida by Gabe Habash

Discussion in 'TMB Book Club' started by Gin Buckets, Aug 8, 2017.

  1. Gin Buckets

    Gin Buckets Well-Known Member
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    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31945100-stephen-florida

    This book is highly regarded in the literary community as seen in these articles:

    http://www.npr.org/2017/06/07/530794327/stephen-florida-goes-to-the-mat-and-wins

    https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/07/stephen-florida-gabe-habash-review/532404/


    I've already started it on Chapter 10 of 25.

    I'm really enjoying it so far, and think y'all will too. The author is not an ex wrestler, he only used wrestling because he wanted to write a book where the main character was willing to sacrifice much and go through near anything to reach a goal. I think Habash would describe it more as a character study.

    Linus asking of girls pee through their butts. :cmonson:

    Also currently enduring the HJ while his gal is talking about dead goats. Lol

    Edited to tag: The Blackfish
     
    #1 Gin Buckets, Aug 8, 2017
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017
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  2. RegimentML

    RegimentML Well-Known Member
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    I'll start listening to the audiobook once I finish my current book.
     
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  3. Fusiontegra

    Fusiontegra My life is dope and I do dope shit.#SparedByThanos
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    Not sure on chapter number, but I'm 12% in. Reads a lot like a Palahniuk book, who I've always loved.

    It's the kind of book you don't want to put down because there are no breaks. There's never a, "oh, the characters have settled down at a campfire to sleep" point, even at chapter ends.
     
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  4. Fusiontegra

    Fusiontegra My life is dope and I do dope shit.#SparedByThanos
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    Very much equal parts Fight Club and The Social Network.

    I'm 85% through. At this point, him turning out normal would actually end up as the most surprising finish.

    This is my first book club thread, so I'm not sure how we do plot discussion. Spoilers or nah?
     
  5. RegimentML

    RegimentML Well-Known Member
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    Spoilers please. State where you are in the book before posting the spoilers as well
     
  6. Gin Buckets

    Gin Buckets Well-Known Member
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    I'm 48% through on audible, which says I'm at Chapter 14 of 25.

    He lost, and immediately turned into a lunatic. He pushed away his only friend and stood up his GF for no good reason.

    That said, I really like the character study. While not quite to this extreme, I knew some folks like this on my wrestling team at VT. Hyper-focused, anti-social, and kind of a dick to everyone. Stephen Florida isn't much different other than being a much shittier wrestler (Div 4).

    I can also relate to him as I had 3 meniscus surgeries my freshman year. Sucked. When he first started talking about his knee going out I thought it was for sure going to be MCL or ACL. I saw 2 guys wrestle through their senior seasons at VT with torn ACLs. That's a real thing.

    Do we think the lost aunt had to do with his breakdown or was it all in the injury?

    The Frogman is a representation of what keeps him down, am I correctly reading that?

    I cringgggged when we actually went to Carver's house. What a fucking psycho.
     
  7. Gin Buckets

    Gin Buckets Well-Known Member
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    ~68% through

    WTF is in his coach's notebook? Some of that shit didn't make sense and/or sounded satanic.
     
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  8. The Blackfish

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    Starting today
     
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  9. RegimentML

    RegimentML Well-Known Member
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    24%

    Not many thoughts other than I think it's very well written. It does remind me a lot of The Art of Fielding, except this main character has some sociopathic tendencies. Probably due to the near-zealotry and reverence each of the protagonists have for their respective sports.

    I do wonder what will turn out to be the main plot/problem Stephen is faced with. Does this turn into a murder mystery with that Jazz teacher? Does Mary Beth get hurt somehow? Hard to say.

    Enjoying it so far though.
     
  10. Fusiontegra

    Fusiontegra My life is dope and I do dope shit.#SparedByThanos
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    Pressed through to finish Sunday night.

    I'm giving it a really good 8/10. It's original, the main character incites the entire spectrum of emotion about him throughout the book, and it's just really good writing. Plot discussion below.

    It grabs you from the beginning, but the Christmas break section, while he's rehabbing his knee and there's no one on campus, that's when the book really goes off the rails and makes you not want to put it down.

    Replying to some thing as I understand them and will discuss the end when more people get there.
     
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  11. Fusiontegra

    Fusiontegra My life is dope and I do dope shit.#SparedByThanos
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    Frogman
    I think your assessment is correct, gin. I would have liked some explanation of why it was "Frogman", but it's definitely a subconscious thing that he's consciously aware of. I kept waiting for something and you never really get it, unless...

    The Ending
    i'm a fan of open endings. That said, there are some things that could have been hashed out about the ending. Stephen acts as an omnipotent narrator at all times, so when he says. a few paragraphs before the end, that everyone is gone...Linus, Aunt, Mary Beth...you're forced to believe him. In the same section, he talks about how winning is just like nothing. It doesn't really change anything because he was always living his life like it was a preordained thing. He was going to win and that's it. If that's the case, you could argue that Frogman is what's sitting there in the room at the end...but the door is open. It's physically open. Someone has walked into the room before him, which leaves him as a) a liar(which he actually cops to earlier in the book...leaving some question about what can be believed), b) wrong about everyone being gone(thus bringing into question the validity of any statement about an event in which he doesn't experience firsthand, or c) driven over the end by the chase for winning(which we've already seen for the majority of the book).

    I haven't decided on what I want to be the ending.

    Turning point of the book ~45%
    you could see the loss coming. I didn't expect the injury, but as soon as his focus during the match turns to Aunt Lorraine and Mary Beth, you know he's going to lose

    General discussion, with some plot notes
    One of my favorite things the author does is dance in and out of dangerous/peculiar situations. They don't quite come off as edge-of-your-seat as he may have intended, but I think the occur in ways that are much more humanistic. We've all been in situations we realized could turn bad, yet they never really do. The major three instances:
    Aunt Lorraine - he toys with the idea that she may be made up. That an opponent called to psyche him out, that Linus or Mary Beth may have been behind it. He does all of this without every really having to SAY any of it, which is masterful. In the end, she's really just his aunt with good intentions who makes poor decisions.
    Silas - we learn very early that he might be a murderer. Florida nearly ruins all of his progress multiple time: stealing his car, sneaking into his house, slipping a letter into his class, stabbing him with scissors...but usually comes to his senses just before. In the end, Silas might really just be an unfortunate man who lost his wife and will spend his last days in that house, ostracized for something he may not have done.
    Oil worker nephew(whose name escapes me) - this has all the makings of weirdness once they get back to his house. The book, the lack of clothing, the remoteness. Weird noises that never amount to anything(and therefore may not have existed), but it all just settles and Florida is never worse off because of it.

    The biiiig picture
    how crazy is our main character? How often is he lying or just subconsciously overdramatizing an event? Is the Silas story largely made up for his grant paper in March? Are Mary Beth and he as close as he thinks? Does she move to get away from him and he doesn't see it?

    Depending on your thoughts of the first question, you can really take just about everything in the book a number of ways.
     
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  12. Gin Buckets

    Gin Buckets Well-Known Member
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    Chapter 23 of 25...

    I'm so confused. Ok, so Linus talks to Steven at the district championship saying he "knows it was you" while talking about Anna Michaels? Who in the world is Anna Michaels?

    Glad he won the district championship.

    This whole thing on Fink is very bizarre, and doesn't add up. Fink goes to jail, but literally everything else kind of goes on as normal? What's not adding up here?

    What's the deal with the Roughneck? He made it sound like he was in the presence of a serial killer.

    If in any way this ultimately has some dumbass twist like Fight Club (in Fight Club it was fine, because I wasn't sick of twists yet), then I'll be annoyed. That said, I don't think this will happen.

    This feels like a Murakami book at times, where you're just not really sure what exactly is happening. Maybe I'm over-thinking it, but I almost am not sure what's reality and what isn't, because he'll say something that's important, but keep going like he didn't say it at all.

    I'm very much enjoying it, but I'm not exactly sure what to think or expect at this point.
     
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  13. Fusiontegra

    Fusiontegra My life is dope and I do dope shit.#SparedByThanos
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    I'll only answer this part because it doesn't spoil anything you haven't already read.

    As for your other bits, read my "general discussion" spoiler when you finish. It really amounts to Habash toying with the reader.

    The Anna Michaels bit confused me, too. He talks earlier about reading or hearing about a guy that used to sneak into people's houses and just watch them - maybe in a Fight Club-esque way, he was projecting that story for something he was doing? I don't remember the Anna michaels name from any other part of the book though. He also thinks Linus might be talking about him stalking around Fink's house, too, after he's gone to jail.
    He finishes that little section up by saying Linus just up and walks away, without Florida ever replying, and then it's "as if someone else asks me have you ever believed you were going crazy?"...then launches into a diatribe about not being crazy because he's winning.

    I'm not sure Linus is ever even there, or if Florida is just admitting fucked up shut to himself in the mania leading up to the match.
     
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  14. Gin Buckets

    Gin Buckets Well-Known Member
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    Just finished.... Very good book. Really enjoyed. Thanks for indulging me with this one, guys.
     
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  15. Gin Buckets

    Gin Buckets Well-Known Member
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    About to go through everyone's write-ups once I have more than a couple minutes. I listened to this after listening.

     
  16. Fusiontegra

    Fusiontegra My life is dope and I do dope shit.#SparedByThanos
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    It's a good one for a book club, really. It's a shame there aren't more people involved because there's a shit ton of discussion to be had on this one. Awesome selection imo
     
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  17. Gin Buckets

    Gin Buckets Well-Known Member
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    I need to sit down on Monday to write up an actual well thought out write-up on the book.

    Here are some thoughts for anyone whose finished....
    What about Fink though? What exactly was he doing? Did he actually abuse one of the wrestlers? Or was his notebook just psychotic? Part of me doesn't think Linus was raped or sexually abuse simply because the character himself doesn't change at all really. That, and no one finds out. A coach abusing an athlete is big time news, and that would be hard to keep a lid on.

    I need to go back, but there's a part when Linus crawls through the bleachers to sit with Steven (I'm writing a "v" because that's how he said it was spelled in the book, though the book title is with a "ph"). He says "I know it was you", and you naturally you think he's talking about Fink. However, I heard him say something about stalking girls or something like that shortly after? That wasn't even a thing as far as I know, so I'm slightly curious what that meant. OR I may have just heard that part wrong.

    The Blackfish how's it coming along?
     
  18. RegimentML

    RegimentML Well-Known Member
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    I'm at 67% according to Audible

    Okay, so I'm a bit conflicted on this book. On one hand, I think it's very well written. It's an interesting character study, as said above. On the other hand, Stephen is intensely unlikable and I'm having trouble caring about his narrative. Things are a bit weird right now, with his focus on his coach's notebook and the whole Frogman thing. He's alienated everyone around him. I'm wondering where we go from here.
     
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  19. Fusiontegra

    Fusiontegra My life is dope and I do dope shit.#SparedByThanos
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    Fink: You have to remember how self-absorbed Florida is. Remember, his reason for turning in his book in the first place isn't that he cares whether or not he was molesting Linus(more on that in a minute), or that he may actually kill his family...he's just an obstacle keeping Stephen from wrestling, so he does what he has the chance to, to get rid of him. Once he's done that, he thinks very little else of him. As he's the narrator, that would explain why you don't hear more about the Fink story once he's gone. He's gone, and that's all Stephen cares about.

    Remember also, that the wrestler he's accused of abusing is Linus. Florida walks in on the two of them. But the answer to your question is, no, I don't think he was actually abusing Linus - I think Linus is gay. As was Fink. The notebook detailed how he wanted to get rid of his family and run away with Linus - hence the note that ended up in Stephen's locker by accident, "We have to do something about Louise." But then Stephen walks in on them, and I think, through his discussion with Stephen in the closet afterward, Linus realizes he's going to end up reporting it anyway - even though the deal was that Fink clear him and nothing ever gets said, Linus knows him well enough to know that, why bother with a deal, when he can just use the notebook and his eye witness to get rid of Fink entirely. I think Linus goes along with the "molesting" story, so his name doesn't get dragged through the mud for a relationship with a coach, and maybe so no one finds out he's gay. There's also the chance that the "something has to be done about Louise" note meant things were getting much more serious to Fink than Linus intended, and this was a way to get rid of him - however harsh it may be, remember, too, that Linus and Stephen share this concentration on their sport.If Fink might be seen to Linus as an awkward obstacle down the road, he'd likely have no problem doing what he needed to get rid of said obstacle.

    Edit: Maybe also, Linus isn't gay Maybe he's just willing to let the abuse get swept under the rug for the reasons I said before. Stephen's quick to point out how easily Linus becomes close with his new roommate, after their argument before Christmas break. It's strange, how much Stephen notices about his own life and little things, but is completely oblivious to some many others. It could very well be that Linus thought they were more than friends at some point, or maybe not.


    Stalking girls: I still haven't entirely pieced this one together. He mentions two females by name in the non-discussion under the bleachers(Stephen never says a word in this, his naming of Fink's wife and the other woman are thoughts to himself). It wouldn't be surprised, given his depravity, that he's stalking about Louise's house before or after Fink is put in jail. The other woman he names though, is never mentioned at any other point in the book, so that one's confusing. Maybe she is, but it's just in passing, and I'm forgetting.
     
    #19 Fusiontegra, Aug 18, 2017
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2017
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  20. Gin Buckets

    Gin Buckets Well-Known Member
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    Keep at it. The last 25% was my favorite part of the book.
     
  21. Gin Buckets

    Gin Buckets Well-Known Member
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    This all makes a lot of sense, and I think you're correct about the relationship between Linus and Fink. I hadn't thought of it that way, but it makes a whole lot of sense.

    Did the reporter come out after Fink was fired or before?

    I still wished he'd said something passing about local news reporters being around after Fink got fired. Even if just one line about having to walk by some news vans to get to practice

    Silas
    I liked the character though that last scene made me wildly uncomfortable. I'm inclined to think the police did their job, and Silas was actually innocent of killing his wife. Why do you think Silas invited him out for a beer? What did I miss there?
     
  22. Fusiontegra

    Fusiontegra My life is dope and I do dope shit.#SparedByThanos
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    Pretty sure the story on Linus is before Fink is turned in. Stephen is still on the bike when she comes out to interview them all.

    That's definitely his purpose in some cases. The stay at Shane's house is the same way. It's meant to make you recall situations in your own life, where something has just felt off.
    As far as Silas is concerned, here again, you have to remember that everything is told from Stephen's grandiose, sort of whacked out head. In reality, Silas has been ostracized by the entire community and maybe he just sees Florida as a fellow fan of jazz. Maybe Stephen isn't reading the situation the way Silas sees it, who isn't aware Stephen has been creeping around his house for months. Stephen's clearly on edge, expecting to be found out at any moment, so he's naturally over cautious and suspicious. But if you look at it from Silas's POV, all he sees is that Stephen has taken an extreme liking to jazz during his class. It gets kind of weird at points, particularly once they're back at his house, but Stephen kind of initiates that.
     
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  23. Gin Buckets

    Gin Buckets Well-Known Member
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    I'm writing in spurts, but I'm kind of spitballing for the sake of discussion for anyone who is finished.

    Mary Beth
    I don't think she moved away to get away from him. I think he may have been part of why she was thinking about sticking around. She wanted to meet Steven before winter break and he stood her up, so she was probably like "fuck this, I have this opportunity, I'm out." I think Steven may have convinced her not to take that job or whatever it was she was doing 16 hours away. I do think she cared about him though. The letter that Linus wrote Steven mentioned that she'd told Linus she loved Steven. I wish he hadn't been such a dickwad skipping out on both of those meetings, because it would have cleared all of this up. Then again, that's part of the beauty of this book.

    Ruffneck
    Weird scene. Was the guy gay? He made it sound like the guy was a serial killer. I'm inclined to think the guy was weird in a normal sense. Like yeah, a little crazy himself, but not a psychopath or killer. I also don't think he was gay. I think Steven was probably acting weird af, and it probably creeped out the Ruffneck guy, hence why he was the one who initiated going to bed.

    Truman you part of the club still?
     
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  24. Truman

    Truman Well-Known Member
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    Yeah. Ive hit a wall w reading. Been busy and trying to finish my current book. Traveling a lot next week, should be start then and knock it out.
     
  25. Gin Buckets

    Gin Buckets Well-Known Member
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    Easter egg?

    "Stephen Florida" is the title of the book. His actual name is Steven Forrester. I think the "ph" vs "v" thing for the same name is kind of interesting. He never clarifies that the university screwed up his first name, but he mentions it's with a "v" like 3x. That's how he proved Aunt Lorraine's identity, so I actually think that's what he was born with, but the only mention of his name having a "ph" instead of "v" is literally in the book title. Am I crazy?
     
    #25 Gin Buckets, Aug 18, 2017
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2017
  26. Fusiontegra

    Fusiontegra My life is dope and I do dope shit.#SparedByThanos
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    I think you're probably right. I only raised the question earlier because Stephen's mania kind of makes it a possibility.
    It's funny that the meeting with her and Linus both come and go, and Stephen never makes a second thought about going. It never even passively crosses his mind.

    Don't think he was gay either. Probably incredibly lonely and a little weird himself, but Stephen made it weirder by not really knowing how to act in the situation.
     
  27. RegimentML

    RegimentML Well-Known Member
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    I finished the book this morning.

    I'd give it a 6.5/10. As I've said above, I thought it was well written. That said, there were stretches of the book where I basically lost interest. This is a character study and basically we're dealing with the unreliable narrator most of the book, and you never really know what to take as serious and what is either living in Stephen's head or is actually happening.

    I enjoyed reading everyone's thoughts. I don't have too many others of my own. The open-ended final scene was well done; I tend to lean toward him remaining crazy even after achieving his ultimate goal. I was sort of hoping he'd fall short, just to see what that'd do to his psyche, but the "this isn't as great as I expected" line of thought works too.

    Glad I read it, but I don't think it'd be something I'd read again.
     
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  28. The Blackfish

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    About 75% through, may finish tomorrow.
     
  29. The Blackfish

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    Finished, agree with what most have said, will type of thoughts later.

    I really enjoyed it though. 8.5/10

    Stephen Florida is a lot like Natalie Portman's character from Black Swan
     
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  30. Coffman

    Coffman New Member

    Just joined the site. Couldn't really find a discussion on Reddit, so I thought I would come here.

    Picked up this book after hearing about it on NPR. Being a former student-athlete who suffered two ACL injuries, parts of this book really hit some familiar notes.

    Pre-injury Stephen is focused on the task at hand. Chapters are short, but he accomplishes something and moves on to whatever is next (ie winning a match, meeting Mary Beth).

    Post-injury (more specifically winter break) everything is a mess. Stephens all over the place with his thoughts (chapter structure has gone out the window). He still knows what he wants, but his path has been completely altered.

    I think the most important thing that comes into play here is the isolation. Stephen was already pretty screwed up to begin with, but the loneliness in the end is what he feared the most. I was never really 100% sure what frogman was to him, but I think part of it would have to do with isolation.

    Did Stephen commit those crimes later in the book? He just got oddly detailed for cases that weren't 100% solved.

    On a side note, nothing was worse during recovery than having to ride the bike throughout practice.[a/SPOILER]
     
    #30 Coffman, Aug 24, 2017
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2017
  31. Fusiontegra

    Fusiontegra My life is dope and I do dope shit.#SparedByThanos
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    Nice, welcome.

    The bolded is a really good point. He's clearly kind of manic obsessive early on, but his thoughts being all over the place, illustrated by the chapters, really goes off the rails during winter break.

    The author paints Stephen into corners throughout the entire book, often inserting him into scenarios that are sure to turn badly. Maybe his allusion to the other crimes is done solely to make the reader think Stephen could be responsible for those. He's so nonchalant about the non-wrestling things he does throughout the book that the possibility that he committed the other crimes, and just thinks nothing of them because they're not related to his "quest."
     
  32. Fusiontegra

    Fusiontegra My life is dope and I do dope shit.#SparedByThanos
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    I was thinking the Miles Teller in Whiplash. Like, if the book were to run the course of Stephen's entire life, you could definitely suspect that didn't on a high.
     
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  33. jkun

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    not really sure how I feel about the book. I liked it but also hated it at the same time? basically how my relationship and view of Stephen unfolded throughout reading.
     
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  34. Damion

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