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Friday, June 17, 2016

Book Club Fails (and Wins!)

The bigger of the two book clubs I belong to have read a couple of real bombs lately. In a totally uncharacteristic move, I haven't finished either of the last two selections. In May, we read The Given Day by Dennis Lehane. Or rather, we didn't read it. Only a couple of people out of the 14 or so regular participants finished it, and only one or two more made it past the first chapter. I must admit to being in the latter group. The first few pages were lists of characters and their relationships to each other, and I thought, "Uh oh." Then it launched into a thoroughly boring description of an afternoon on a train with legendary baseball player Babe Ruth. I think the novel is supposed to be about organized crime in the early twentieth century, but I'm not even sure of that. I read a grand total of 13 pages and decided life's too short to read something you hate. I just went to the discussion meeting for the margaritas (we met at a Mexican restaurant during a Wednesday night Happy Hour), and everyone else did, too!

For June, we read Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I thought it was going to be quietly good, as it won the Pulitzer Prize and is considered thoughtful literary fiction. It's an old man's (third generation Congregationalist minister John Ames) meandering thoughts about his life and the lives of his father and grandfather that he's writing down for his very young son. John is over seventy and in poor health, and since he married a much younger woman very late in life, the boy is only 6 years old. He knows he won't live to know his son as an adult, and so it's important to him to write down things he wants to tell him. Gilead is said to be "transcendent" and to have "spare, spiritual prose in the style of Walt Whitman" and I can see that, I really can.......but it bored me to tears. I forced myself to read exactly half...and then I quit, again.

I'm two for two right now. How embarrassing!

There were two consolations to giving up on this second book in a row. First, only about half of the members finished it, and only one person liked it, so I was in good company. And second, my friend Marian hosted this month's meeting at her house, and turned it into a pool party! Her husband (who's retired and has free time) cooked fajitas and mixed drinks for us and brought it all out poolside.














Now that's the way to host a book club party! We had a grand time.

21 comments:

  1. Now that is an ideal book club party at pool side. Too bad about the two books. I tried to read a different highly regarded book by Marilynne Robinson and could not do it, just not worth my time. I hope your next selection for a book club captivates you!

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    1. I couldn't pay attention to her sentences as I read them. I would re-read a page twice and still have no idea what happened beyond the first paragraph because my mind wandered all over the place!

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  2. Now that is my kind of book club !
    I try to read a chapter before I send it to the library thrift shop.

    cheers, parsnip and thehamish

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  3. I often think that certain books should come with a separate list of characters, and their relationships, that one could refer to as one reads . Most Russian books come to mind.

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    1. Most Russian books just need characters whose names aren't all spelled and sound almost exactly alike. I have a hard time keeping track of the characters' names in War and Peace, just as one example.

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  4. Looks like a grand time indeed!
    The idea behind the second book sounds good enough, but I can see how it could also turn out a bit... lengthy ;-)
    Sometimes it's not the book, it's us, when we're just not in the right frame of mind for specific reading material. But with nearly everyone else out of the 14 book club members feeling the same, I suspect it's the book(s), not you.

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    1. Actually, the book was not overly lengthy--it was under 200 pages. But it felt much, much longer....

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  5. If the book club is to continue, it will be important to pick books that people will actually be motivated to read... or you will have to admit that you are in a different kind of club - The Women's Funtime Party Food Club with not a book in sight.

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    1. This book club has been around for years, I'm just a fairly recent addition. We're reading Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead next month, and a couple of members who have already read it like it.

      Even when we don't all finish the book, and no matter how much fun party food we have, we always talk about the book at least a little. This time our discussion consisted of Marian calling from the pool, "ARE WE GOING TO TALK ABOUT THIS DAMN BOOK, OR WHAT?!" and a half dozen or so answering groans. :)

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  6. Life's too short to read bad books (and there are plenty of them about). I like the idea of a Funtime Party Food Club though.

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    1. Me too! The Funtime Party Food Club sounds like my kind of gathering!

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    2. Sue is right, and I've been caught out by books which become more and more unreadable as you go along. The first chapter or two are OK and then they slide into incomprehension. I try to check now before I buy on Amazon (for my Kindle) that they aren't self published - I've come across some terrible ones - especially some of the "new life/doing it ourselves/in a foreign country" genre.
      I'd go for the Funtime Party Food Club any day.

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  7. That looks like the perfect book club meeting. As far as books go with naming of characters endlessly in the first chapter and then start the next chapter with immediately the name of someone who wasn't listed, I just give up and chuck the book in disgust on to the nearest surface, even if it is the floor!

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    1. I know!!!! Me too!

      Even the lists of characters that started off The Given Day were boring! And then I thought, "What the hell does Babe Ruth have to do with anything?"

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  8. I haven't read those books, but no matter how boring the book, I would go for the margaritas--frozen with a sugar rim, please.

    Love,
    Janie

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  9. Beautiful pictures

    http://shilpachandrasekheran.blogspot.ae/?m=1

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  10. Now I know what I've been doing wrong. I need to find a book club with a pool!

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  11. Now i want margarita so much:)

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  12. Wow! What a great spread of amazing looking food. I agree that you can sometimes get stuck with a real dud when it comes to book clubs. I must say that anything regarding Babe Ruth or organized crime would most likely keep my attention. A great group of people to share your thoughts with and a touch of delicious food doesn't hurt either.

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