Reading Group Guide for Spectacular Happiness
Though it is built around the elements of a comic thriller -- explosions, mobsters, federal agents, and a man on the run -- Spectacular Happiness
proves to be a romance and a thoughtful exploration of the nature of happiness: What sort of private contentment is possible in a culture focused on achievement, accumulation, and celebrity? Discussion Points
1. How does the form in which this novel is written -- a series of diary entries by the protagonist -- enhance the story it tells? Does it succeed in focusing attention on the book's central themes of intimacy and disrupted family life? How would the novel and our response to the main character be different if its narrative were told more conventionally -- in the third person, for example?
2. In his "interventions" on beachfront homes, Chip claims to take care to avoid harming people -- to create absurdist theater. Is Free the Beaches a terrorist movement? To what range of activities can the tem terrorism
apply? How do you think Chip's actions would be received in the current climate?
3. Chip tells us his therapist felt he was too timid and withdrawn. "When will you swing boldly into life? he asked. I have tried of late to answer that challenge" (pages 44-45). Chip discusses a number of philosophical motives behind the Free the Beaches movement, but might there be psychological explanations for his behavior, as the above qu