Reading out loud

I attended the first meeting of my book group last night. A friend of mine attended the last session, where they selected books for the next six months, and warned me that the other ladies were, “uhm… older.”

While I’d prefer to socialize with more people of my age group and exact life stage, I kept an open mind. After all, when I encounter people through work or Rob’s class and think they’re potential friend candidates, they usually turn out to be in their early 20s. Nothing wrong with making a few friends who are 10 years older, versus 10 years younger.

Some of the ladies are in fact 60-plus, but several others were in their 40s and 50s. Without a doubt, my 30-year-old friend is the youngest. There was nothing awkward about it, except maybe after we were done discussing the book and a few of the women started comparing menopause notes. Seriously.

It was a large, lively group of about 15 people, but I bet not everyone shows up all the time. I thought everyone was going to have adored the book, Border Songs, although I was ambivalent about it. I enjoyed the writing style and the characters, but was underwhelmed by the ending. I like a satisfying ending. It seemed to me that there are several moments in the book where something really major could happen, but then it turns out not to happen. Is there some meaning to that, or did the author just not want to go there? Note to self: Good novels require that you go there.

My ambivalence made me excited to discuss it. When I finished The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, I was desperate to talk to other people who had read it so I could express my dissatisfaction. I wanted to know why characters did what they did. I learned later, through the author’s appearance on Oprah that he didn’t know why the characters did what they did. Fail.

Several of the book club ladies disliked the writing style but sort of liked the story. Since it took place in their backyard, everybody related to certain things. People unanimously thought the main character never would have been hired by the Border Patrol. The leader of the group said a few times, “Well, it was a fun read,” as though that made it pointless to dig too deep into the meaning or discuss it as literature.

I felt validated as we left when one of the oldest ladies told me she appreciated my comments. (I’m reminded of a “young reader” panel I sat on 20 years ago, when I publicly admitted to reading Sweet Valley High books. My candor was lauded.)

I would say that the discussion gave me some additional insight about the book, and gave me a venue to share my ideas. I can see how certain louder individuals might get on my nerves, or that it could be frustrating trying to get a word in edgewise, but fortunately, I felt confident enough to squeeze my voice in there. I look forward to our next meeting in November, where we will discuss Tobias Wolff’s Old School.

2 thoughts on “Reading out loud

  1. You were very candid. The panel was for school librarians. There were some six-year-olds, who in squeaky little voices recited their rehearsed antipathy toward sex and violence. You said,”I can see how some of the younger panelists might be offended, but personally I like books that include some sex and violence.”

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