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Two new reading guides for Stephen McCauley’s Insignificant Others courtesy of our friends at A Different Light/SF AIDS Foundation book club in San Francisco.
1. Why is Doreen invested in Conrad having an insignificant other? What’s at stake for her?
2. The narrator says men should handcraft their relationships to better suit their needs. Do you think this is makes them psychologically evolved or as Doreen puts it, emotionally cut-off?
3. Richard and Conrad finally have a “little talk” on page 143. The conversation is rather anti-climactic with Conrad saying very little. What does it say about who’s in control and who is desperately trying to keep it together?
4. Why does the narrator put up with his overly sensitive, gossip fueling, religious assistant Anne?
5. What’s more difficult, telling your spouse about an impending surgery or an insignificant other? Why does Richard seem to be the go-to bad news bearer, except in his own life?
6. On page 154, Richard comments that the only way to keep the early affection glowing in a relationship is sadomasochism. Do you agree that we need to negotiate a “safe outlet for the inevitable desire to humiliate and punish the person you love”?
7. How’s Richard a poison and a cure for Benjamin’s sexual craving? Do you think he can be both or is he just a poison and deluding himself to justify his actions?
8. What’s the difference between the Connectrix building Richard works in and the one Benjamin designs, the “profitable traps he’s created for himself” (pg. 172).
9. Towards the end of the novel, the narrator ends his relationship with his insignificant other and freezes his gym membership. Subsequently he begins focusing on the “main event” relationship. What’s the message about monogamy and insignificant others and potentially life-shifting distractions?