The book club has existed for over twenty years. People have come and gone. Divorces, marriages, adoptions, new homes, children leaving for college, new pets, and other major life events have occurred. But always there have been the books. We are a real book club, which means we actually discuss the book. We have had lawyers, librarians, professors, teachers, and me. I am allowed to stay because of nepotism. The one whose name shall not be said out loud started the group and thus I get a pass.
When we first started we were all on our best behavior. The homes were spotless, the hors d’oeurves were homemade, many and good, books were always read by everyone, and we were on our best behaviors. Now homes are hit a lick for cleaning, we have Oreos, we occasionally are rude and the book is not always read by everyone. In fact we almost proudly announce that we did not read the book because our lives have been out of control. It is as if we are saying “Give me some sympathy here.” We have grown comfortable with each other. We each over time have developed our roles.
I try to be the rebel without a cause, but do you know how hard it is to rebel against a book club? I will always struggle to find new and more profound meaning which leaves my fellow book clubbers often looking at me with that ‘are you for real look’. But thank God for nepotism.
But others have their roles too. We have the eccentric animal lover whose heart is as wide as the Grand Canyon. Who always reads the book and more importantly brings the Oreos. We have an archivist who can tell us every book we have read and when we read it. He also is the one most likely to ask how your life is going. We have our expert who has a PHD in English. We have the one who can always make references to other books and once or twice has entertained us with his piano playing. They are also most likely to nod off for a moment. We have the grand maker of good things to eat, who reminds us that she does not like books filled with violence.
In the beginning we had our book club hussies who had more than one book club to which they belonged. But in the end those were fleeting dalliances that could not stand the trials of time. Or they are still meeting them on the side in a southside hotel. One couple’s first meeting was when we were reading a book about dwarfs which was filled with unusual sex and violence and was a poor translation from French. Yet somehow they came back. There was also the other French translated book that we all read for a week and as one body decided none of us were going to finish it. It was a little beyond, beneath, behind, and disgusting for us. We later learned much to our chagrin it was considered a French classic. Those French and their silly little books. We even read one book about a Dangerous Husband whose wife killed him because he was annoying. This made the men very uneasy and they slept with one eye open for the next few weeks.
The choosing of the book to read is a simple but brutal process. The host presents three books as suggestions. We have an unwritten and sometimes broken rule that we cannot read a book that someone in the group has already read. Sometimes this rule can leave us with only one ‘choice’. So the little white lies begin. I read the book while I was young and in a coma and had a vocabulary of twenty words I do not remember a thing about it. But the archivist will shake his head and proclaim a rule is a rule. And the rest nod their heads in agreement. At least that is the way it happens most of the time. We always in choosing a book need to know the important information of how many pages and how big is the print. This can be the sole decider on occasion. Then comes the voting coalitions. As these are formed wives will betray husbands, friends will deny friends and then the vote will be taken. A gnashing of teeth for those who now realize they have to read a book they spoke so strongly against settles in.
After the book is chosen, the date is set. In the old days everyone broke out their paper daily planners but today except for one the smart phones come out. The dates are set only to be reset when someone returns home and remembers they will not be in town that day. Then the reading begins. There are shared emails that express love for the book, hate for the book, or oh shit I need to start reading. In a bow to modernity one member listens to the book on the way to work. Maybe one day we will become the book on tape club.
We have our traditions. Every holiday season we have a White Elephant book swap. Tipping Velvet a Victorian porn novel will make an appearance. No one wants it and everyone denies reading it, but somehow the pages have become frayed through the years. For some reason the holiday celebration is always at our house. One book club member said that makes sense since we host on a rotating basis. But my deductive skills have been refined through the fires of book club discussions: that only works if we met on a regular schedule. Maybe it is because when we met for Christmas at someone else’s house they entertained us with the house across the street catching fire. While this gave us all an adrenaline rush it is not something you want to repeat. So it is at our house this year.
The years have passed. The books keep getting read. And once again it is the holiday season. We need to buy books for the White Elephant book swap and I need to pull Tipping Velvet off my night stand next to the bed. I notice it is even more frayed than last year.