In August, I joined a book club. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing - I had gone in to drop off one book and one CD that were appallingly overdue (and for the record, yes...I did pay $2.00 in overdue fines for Martha Stewart Cooking and Brahms' A German Requiem...both of which sat on my desk for over a month and mocked my culinary and cultural knowledge). I was on my way out the door when I saw a flyer for an "Under 40 Book Club." Well, I am under 40 and I've been looking for a little kick in the arse to read something other than chicklit and historical fiction...so, why not? I had visions of intense debate, which would be stoked with wine, brandy and a gentleman in a beret. Yes, the meetings would be held in the library, but surely there was some tucked-away corner of the building specifically designed for round-table discussions featuring hipsters and alcoholics. Right? And I would never have seen this room in the 300 times I've been to this library because I have never been in a book club....until now. I was in the club. I might even smoke a pipe.
The club met at the end of September to discuss book titles. I bailed at the last minute because in the aftermath of Shep's death, the very last thing I wanted to do was sit around and bat about book titles I've never heard of with a bunch of over-anxious twenty-somethings....wine and brandy or no. So, I skipped it. Big mistake. Huge. The first book was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. The main character, a teenage boy with autism, is charming in his own scrambled way and it was an easy read. So, fine. The meeting, however...NOT FINE. There is no tucked away corner of the Lexington Public Library where men in driving gloves and women with long cigarettes can discuss the importance of literature today next to a roaring fire. There is only the conference room, where just minutes before, a half-dozen sweaty teens were playing Wii after their book club discussion. It was not looking promising. There was no round table...nor was there a decanter or corkscrew to be found. Oy vey. I was so screwed. We were going to discuss this sober?? That never renders a good honest debate. Never. (Especially among people who have only met once...or not at all, as in my case...and must sensor their comments so as not to offend or judge).
The gentleman leading the book club began moving tables and setting up chairs, so the few of us there early (I for the free alcohol, the other 2 women to lay claim to a future husband) helped. As the crowd sauntered in, I found my chair and silently sulked. Five minutes later, a woman who looked to be about 6 months pregnant came in and sat down beside me. A minute after that, a guy in a fedora and the whole t-shirt-under-a-suit-vest-combo sat down on the other side. I was nestled between Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. Awesome. It was not long into the "discussion" when Mr. Fedora began reciting passages from the book, almost verbatim...think more "soliloquy," less "general comment."). Double awesome. Toward the end of the hour, the club leader began passing out the November book selection...a book by an Appalachian author. Triple awesome and a home run for Team Anguish.
I think I have shared with you all my feelings on Jesse Stewart...or maybe that was John Muir. At any rate, I have taken great pains to avoid most Kentucky authors because they insist on writing about Appalachia. (Thank you, Barbara Kingsolver, for taking an alternate approach). I think Appalachia is at once breathtakingly beautiful and heartbreakingly sad. And I have worked earnestly to ensure that I do not let anything slip like "I seen that dog," "I done took the test," or "I'm a-fixin' to cook a mess-a-beans." And yet, this is what I'm reading...supposedly for pleasure. Clay's Quilt is set in fictional Crow County, but as I read it, all I can think is Clay or Harlan counties. And when I finish a passage, I do not feel any smarter. I have lived this life...I do not need to read about it to know what it's like. I want to read about living on the New England coast or attending the Sorbonne...not pregnant 19-year old girls and honky-tonks in the holler. I am less than 100 pages from the end, and yet...I'm not sure if I will finish. I have to reward myself for reading a chapter with reading from The Lost Symbol (which, yes, is very stereotypical Dan Brown but also quite gripping). As the pregnant bride, Dreama, decides to "quit" her cheatin', no-good husband, I may just have to quit this book....at least, I'm a-fixin' to, anyways.