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22 August 2010 @ 05:19 pm
Dogs of Babel Discussion Questions  
Hey all!

I realize that we're about to switch to a new community, but I figure I can re-post these questions there if necessary. I found some great discussion questions online about this book which might facilitate some interesting conversation.
1. Paul is a college professor -a man of reason-yet he is determined he can teach his dog Lorelei to talk. What accounts for his strange conviction? Has grief driven him mad, or do his actions have a rational explanation?

2. Paul and Lexy seem to have extremely different personalities. What characteristics in Paul might have drawn Lexy to him? What, for Paul, were the irresistible elements of Lexy's character? Were there early indications that she had a darker side?

3. What do you make of Paul and Lexy's whirlwind romance and courtship? Do they rush into the relationship too quickly, or does the intensity of their feelings for each other indicate a powerful bond?

4. What kind of clues does Paul find to indicate that Lexy's death had more to it than it seemed? Do you think Lexy deliberately left him a puzzle to piece together?

5. How does making death masks affect Lexy? Despite Paul's fears that it is too morbid a pursuit for her, why does she tell Paul she wants to continue?

6. Lexy creates a death mask for a young girl named Jennifer, who committed suicide. Why do Jennifer's parents reject the first mask Lexy makes? What kind of significance does the mask take on for Lexy?

7. Paul's obsession with the Cerberus Society leads him and Lorelei into a dangerous situation. Why is he so fascinated with this strange group? Is he responsible for Lorelei's abduction?

8. During Paul and Lexy's vacation in New Orleans, Lexy is convinced that she has met the ghost of Blue Marie. Why is this meeting so important to her? What happens when she is led to believe that the woman was not, after all, Blue Marie?

9. Lexy faithfully records her dreams in a dream journal. After her death, Paul hunts through this book searching desperately for answers. What role do dreams play in the book? Do you think they offer a window into a person's psyche? How do Paul's dreams about Lexy reflect how his own grieving process progresses?

10. What is the significance of the verses from Tam Lin that Lexy teaches Paul on pp. 60-1? How does their meaning transform throughout the novel?
kanzankanzan on August 27th, 2010 10:04 pm (UTC)
1. I definitely think that because Paul is dedicated to all things relating to speech, that it does intrigue him from a science aspect to see if it's possible, and he's more reluctant to brush the idea away because of his grieving, or his need to understand why Lexy died. Pretty much what psychedeliceyes said!

2. Paul is a romantic, and is balanced- not at all extreme or erratic. I believe that's likely part of why Lexy chose him, as well as wanting someone to feel would take care of her or make her feel safe- the age difference could also make this more apparent. For Paul, Lexy is outlandish, creative, and brings colour to his world. He likes her because she pushes his boundaries and makes him see the beauty in more than he might otherwise. Lexy's dark side came through with the Disneyland thing, indeed, as well as her need for control in terms of the whole "we can't eat dinner, we can only eat appetizers), etc. Lexy probably likes that he is solid where she isn't.

3. I don't know if it's so much about time, or if I feel that Lexy should have communicated more with Paul about her concerns when he was asking her to marry him. As well as her concerns with having children. Instead she shuts down the conversations, or is vague, and he idealizes her and figures there's nothing about her that he wouldn't like, etc. Like others have suggested- she doesn't seem to recognize her own mental illness which causes problems for those trying to live with her while she experiences it, without any guidelines for treatment or help, etc.

4. The steak was a big indicator that things were weird, and the bookshelves. Lexy absolutely left him a puzzle she intended for him to work out, knowing that he likes to solve problems. She tried to pretend that it wasn't pre-meditated, and that "suicide is just a moment", but for someone who decided to kill herself on a whim, she sure did a lot of planning.

5. The death masks allow her a reason to immerse herself in the world of the dead- to become accustomed to the feel of cold flesh, and to tell stories about the lives of the people, as she feels she can relate to the people who have died because she plans to do it herself someday. She creates masks- especially for herself- the artsy fun-loving Lexy is a mask over the dark underside where she relishes her self-loathing. Creating the masks makes her feel like she's doing something positive for the people who've died, but really, as we learn with Jennifer's parents- it's all for the people left behind. She's obsessed with the idea that she's connecting with the dead on some level like they are still there- but they're not, we see that with the whole Blue Marie situation. She's romanticizing death.

6. The death mask for Jennifer basically gave the message that the parents didn't know the real Jennifer at all, which is something too heartbreaking for them to be able to accept. She then takes the mask to represent herself, and wears it to show that Paul doesn't actually know the real Lexy at all, because she refuses to let him into the darker realm.

7. He's obsessed with understanding how to access answers to the pain and loss he's experiencing. It absolutely clouds his judgment and it does end up hurting Lorelei, ultimately. I was alarmed right away when I read that he put her in the backyard, and not the house.

8. Lexy's meeting Blue Marie was so important to her because she wanted to believe in a spirit beyond this life, and that there's more than just nothing after death. When she learns that there wasn't a ghost, she shuts down and doesn't want to think about it. She can't accept that suicide wouldn't be so romantic if there's nothing after life.

Just my opinion... may be way off. I'm not a huge Lexy fan if it wasn't obvious!

Edited at 2010-08-27 10:04 pm (UTC)