Wednesday, January 16, 2008

BOOK CLUB

(Click on cartoon to enlarge)

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BOOK CLUB GUILT
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THIS IS SO US - FROM THE PERSON WHO'S ONLY READ FOUR PAGES DOWN TO THE PERSON DESPERATELY SPEED READING THROUGH THE LAST FEW PAGES!

I mentioned in a recent post that my blogging circle isn’t a closed circle - new participants are welcome anytime. The only closed circle I belong to is my book club! The eight of us don’t accept new members any more, even though we’ve had some people strongly hint that they might want to join.

It’s not that we’re snobs, or any great shakes as a book club, intellectually speaking. We’re just too old and set in our ways, and know each other too well, to bring a young pup into the picture. Although I've been a member for 16 years, I was the last to join. This club has been meeting for over 30 years!

Our previous limit was 12, a perfect number for each member to choose a book and host a meeting once a year. But like with any group, attrition took its toll. Former long-time members are now living in Idaho, Colorado and Florida.

One member dropped out because of overwhelming family problems. We would welcome her back with open arms. But other people have come and gone, neither staying very long nor making much of an impression.

I think the decision to not take new members happened at Susan’s last meeting. Knowing Susan was moving away, Kathy had invited a prospective member, who brought yet another person. Darned if Prospective Member didn’t stand up and proceed to take over the meeting. She thought she was the boss lady, the queen bee. I’m sure you know what the rest of us thought! We told Kathy to inform Miss Fancy Pants that she and her friend would NOT be joining the club (poor friend). Fancy Pants did not take the news well, and name calling ensued. Needless to say, Kathy decided she’d never invite a PM again!

So here we are, originally just members of a club and now fast friends. Judy, at 64, is our matriarch. Kathy, in her early 50s, is still a babe. We’re named CRS, for Can’t Remember S--- (or more politely, Stuff). Really, no new member could put up with our willy-nilly memory lapses, our dilly-dallying when shopping or our shilly-shallying when trying to make plans.

Over the years we’ve taken road trips for shopping and dining, to visit our long-distance member, Ginger, and to attend a Dickens Festival. For a couple of summers we had sleepovers at Barb N.’s cabin, a peaceful setting on a lake near Butte, ND. (For a bunch of old broads, they sure stay up late!)

Like any group that has been together so long, we have our "in" jokes. The most famous is probably, “Tiger, what tiger?” Barb N., unknowingly, had skipped not a few pages of Pat Conroy's "The Prince of Tides" and missed the tiger part. For anyone not familiar with the book, the tiger plays an integral role. So every now and then, when a person is not quite up to speed on a topic, we’ll say “Tiger, what tiger?”

Like elephants, we never forget and we never let anyone else forget either. We’ll never let Judy off the hook for the time when she was trying to explain Marilyn Monroe’s allure. “She had those, you know, they attract men, you know, those pair-o' -phones.” (Pheromones)

Or the time when I was hosting the summer picnic and a microburst ripped through Bismarck. Concerned about heating our food after the power went off, Judy asked me if my oven was gas or electric. “I don’t know!” I wailed. As an excuse for my mental block, you need to know that at the time I had a river of water running through my kitchen.

And woe to the person who accidentally erased the tape of Oprah’s interview with Diane Downs. Though it happened years ago, it is still fresh in everyone’s mind, including mine, and I wasn’t even in the club then! (If you don’t remember Diane Downs, read Ann Rule’s true crime book, “Small Sacrifices”).

And then there’s me, The Book Nazi. I acquired this hideous title just because I insist that everyone read every book, every month. Sheesh, give me a break already!

I once joked that since many members don’t always read the book, we should just become a social club like The Red Hat Society. I was certainly set straight. I was informed in no uncertain terms that there would be No Red Hatters in this club.

We read fiction and non-fiction, high-brow and low-brow stuff, bestsellers and classics, and lots of books about Mormons. For some reason, we are fascinated by Mormons.

We’re a diverse group that includes social workers, an artist, a librarian, a teacher and two former newspaper reporters. Some of us have kids, some don’t. Some of us still slog away at a job every day, some are retired. However, we are all post-menopausal mamas and we are all longstanding, grassroots Democrats. If there's a connection there, we're unaware of it!

We laugh a lot, sometimes to the point of not being able to catch our breath. Judy is a born oral storyteller and Mary Lee has a droll wit. We gossip a lot and eat scrumptious desserts and drink loads of coffee. But we always get around to talking about the book.

It’s not all been fun. Some of us have lost parents, or children, or siblings. We’ve had health problems, divorces, job losses and financial troubles. We are getting older. Some members are beginning to have vision problems, which does not bode well for book club. But through all these trials, we have loved and supported each other. I love these ladies and I will still love them when we're all wearing our old-lady plastic rain hats and knee-high nylons with dresses.
And for me, book club is the most anticipated item on my calendar every month.
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Some of our favorite books:

“The Shell Seekers” by Rosamunde Pilcher
“I Capture The Castle” by Dodie Smith
“Peace Like A River” Leif Enger
“The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger
“The Birth of Venus” by Sarah Dunant
“Bel Canto” by Ann Patchett
“Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen
“Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” by Lisa See
“Stones From the River” by Ursula Hegi
“Five Quarters of the Orange” by Joanne Harris
"The Prince of Tides" by Pat Conroy
"Girl With A Pearl Earring" by Tracy Chevalier

Multiple books by the aforementioned Ann Rule, plus Sue Monk Kidd, Jodi Picoult, Barbara Kingsolver, Anna Quindlen, Minnesota's John Hassler and Amy Tan.
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Are any of you in a book club? Do you have fun stories to share? What are some of the books your club has read? If you're not in a club, what good books have you read lately? Are there any books you are pining for?

In honor of my one-year blogiversary coming up very soon, I will give away a brand NEW book by drawing a random name from the commenters on this post.

ADDED THURSDAY: I will draw the name on Sunday.

25 comments:

Carmen said...

I want to read water for elefants and I have the book and excuses excuses, LOL
love you dear Julie!

Autumn said...

Out of your list I have read The Time Travelers Wife. I enjoyed it.
I am about to start reading The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd. I don't belong to a group, and read on my own. I take a book to work everyday and read for at lest a half hour to forty five minutes. It is my "me time" and I love relaxing and getting lost for awhile.

Janet said...

Your book club sounds like a fun group. I read a lot of books but have never been in a book group. I recently read The Mermaid's Chair and The Secret Life of Bees and loved them both. Right now I'm slogging through a dry spell right now....which means I got several books from the library but none of them are grabbing my attention.

Polly said...

LOL!

Rosamund Pilcher really can't be beat, at least in my book. : )

lila said...

Hi Julie!
The cartoon is wonderful! I have read both Secret Life of Bees, and The Mermaid Chair. My most recent favorite was Eat, Pray, Love, I belong to a book group which reads books on meditation and contemplative prayer...current selection in "Nothing Special" by Charlotte Joko Beck. (we are not as tightly bonded as your book club!)It has been a long time since I read a "page-turner", I loved Prince of Tides...and always enjoyed reading Susan Howatch's series about Anglican priests who were having mid-life breakdowns, then working through it to find redemption.... I may need to pick up a good book for reading on our flight to San Francisco this weekend....

smilnsigh said...

Never joined a book club. I'd not make a good member. I only read what I want and at my own pace. :-)

Mari-Nanci

LW said...

Oh Julie, what a delightful fun read this was, your friends all sound wonderful and I laughed
reading most of this post. What a lucky group to have found each other....that in itself is priceless.
One of my favorites that is on your list is "Stones from the River" it was awhile ago that
I read it, at least 10 years , but I loved Trudi and still think of her once in a while.
"Water for Elephants" is on my list for this year and I just added "The Shell Seekers"..

Louise

GreenishLady said...

What a great description of your group! I understand that need to close up a group, when everyone is comfortable with one another, the dynamic can be totally thrown with the arrival of someone new. Wise decision, in the case of your group, it seems! I love your taste in books. I've read many on your list, and count most of your favourite authors among mine - though I've only just discovered Jodi Picoult.

Kristen said...

What about Reading Lolita in Tehran? Or did you read that on your own? Either way, it's very appropriate for a book club.

Julie Marie said...

I read "Reading Lolita in Tehran" on my own. You're right, it's an excellent book for a book club to read.

P.S. You're not in the drawing!

Love,

Mom

Ruth said...

Oh good - some of my favourite books here, plus one or two new ones to look out for. I'm not in a reading group, but I am in the local writers' group, and we discuss good books that we have read.

GreenishLady said...

Me again! I've tagged you for a meme - only if you feel like playing along!

Gemma said...

OMG Julie...I'm a card carrying member of CRS....however I have it so bad sometimes I refer to it as CSR. tee hee
Your book club sounds like a great bunch of ladies. AWESOME!
I've read some of those books and will check your other recommendations!Thanks
:-)

Sheila said...

I love to read but haven't done as much lately. I'm enjoying one right now (I will pass it along to you)and wish I had more time to get stuck into it.
I'm not into clubs and things, I like to do my own thing, and don't make a good member..
Have a great weekend..
hugs
xx

smilnsigh said...

Julie, how is the carpel tunnel syndrome doing by now????

Mari-Nanci

miss*R said...

I am still to read that book that you recommended ages ago - The Shell seekers... I must see if I can find it!!

I am not in a book club..but I was in a patchwork club and the same - we ended up being a close circle to, for the same reason that you are!
Your story reminds me of a Seinfeld episode!

Mary said...

Julie, I loved reading about your club and member friends. How wonderful you have all stayed together through thick and thin over the years.
I've read several of your favorites - wish I had time to read more - must make myself drop everything else and do it earlier in the day, get too drousy at night and barely make a page or two!
Hope you're doing better dear.

Mrs. Staggs said...

This is a lovely post, Julie. I think it is wonderful that you have such a nice and interesting group of friends to share one of lifes biggest pleasures, and your daily life with.
I loved " I Capture the Castle:, when I read it many years ago. I think I've read it 3 times.
Right now, I'm reading A Thousand Days in Tuscany, and I'm enjoying it very much.

Diana said...

Hi Julie, I envy your book club. It sounds like a wonderful group of friends! what excellent memories you have together. -- besides actually reading books!!

Lori said...

Julie,
Your book club sounds great! I have read many of the books you mentioned and love to read, although I am not in a book club. I am currently reading Snow Flower and The Secret Fan. Thank you for your encouraging comments on my writing on my blog!
Lori

Casey said...

I read "The Shell Seakers" many years ago on the recommendation of a friend. At first, it didn't seem like the type of book I'd be interested in, but geez was I ever wrong! It was a wonderful story. Every once in a while, all these years later, I'll come across something that reminds me of something in the story. Another book I thought I'd hate, but ended up absolutely loving, was "House of Sand and Fog" by Andre Dubus III. It was made into an okay movie, but the book was just gripping. You really get an insight into another culture without it being rammed down your throat. I recommend it to the CRS club.

I used to read at least two books a month...and then I went back to school! Right now I'm reading a compilation of short stories by female Irish authors called "Irish Girls About Town." All the stories take place in Ireland (one of my favorite places!) and more importantly, they are all short. This means I can finish a story in one sitting and not feel too guilty about putting off my schoolwork.

It's funny that your blog was about your book club, because I was just telling Vickie's mom that I really wished I could find some friends who liked reading as much as I do to start a club. When I finished the last Harry Potter book, I had no one to discuss it with and was going out of my mind!

nonizamboni said...

What fun!--I'm a little jealous actually. :O)
What a delightfully written post, Julie, as always. [Read the Shellseekers long ago and still remains a favorite.]

KJ said...

I am smiling with great amusement, and not because I want to join your club (which would be next to impossible since I am holding down the opposite coast.) There should be no apology for having a club with a limit on membership or a chemistry that makes one's heart sing! I can only imagine the expressions on your faces when Miss Bossy took charge. I laugh just thinking about it. I'm afraid that I would have played with her head. I have never had much patience with those who have their own agenda and something to prove. I'm kind, but I don't like to give place to it.

Last month, I had a dinner gathering here at my home with a small group of ladies. My Puerto Rican friend, Yvonne, brought her hubby and she proceded to demonstrate her country's ethnic fare. Oh what fun! We decided that we want to do this on a monthly basis and that we should keep the guests to a cozy minimum or we will be missing the point. Well, my flavorful yet eager Yvonne immediately began to spread the word; simply because she loves to share the fun. I had to pull her aside and put her enthusiasm in park.

Also, from what I have discovered about you on your blog, it's not hard to picture you as the Book Nazi! You must be a kick! Oh and the records show that a handsome number of men talked into those pair-o-phones! LOL!

Tootles, KJ

Jo Anne O. said...

What a wonderful group you have with your book club! I have tried to find ladies who would be interested in forming one, but to date it hasn't happened yet. I did find a group of ladies who WERE a book club, and was really interested in joining them, but they were closed too much for the same reason your group is. SO I am still hunting.

Love the comic too!

Jo Anne O. said...

Oh and I forgot to say that I have been reading through Morgan Llywelyn's books lately...Druids, The Greener Shore and now Bard and have totally enjoyed them all!

If you haven't read them, you would love them!

The Secret Life of Bees was great!