Tuesday, May 20, 2014
I am extremely frightened about two things I read this morning:
1. First lady Michele Obama thinks kids should report their parents for their private thoughts
2. A number of college students think warning labels should to be applied to classic books — The Great Gatsby (for misogyny and violence), Huck Finn (for racism), Things Fall Apart (for colonialism and religious persecution), Mrs. Dalloway (for suicide), Shakespeare (for ... you name it).
Sound at all familiar? Is history going to repeat itself? Have we learned nothing?
Do these two things ring any warning bells for you? They do for me.
Monday, May 19, 2014
We're avid readers in my family, but I'm the only one with the leisure to belong to a book group. My daughter, who lives in Manhattan, has one of those marvelous little book stores nearby, run by someone who knows her subject and always has great suggestions. I'm unhappy with the disappearance of these wonderful little stores...we certainly don't have a one left here, ours was taken over by Barnes and Noble, who in turn is being taken over by Amazon. I have mixed feelings about Amazon. And yes, I have a Kindle. When traveling, it is a Godsend. But still.....
So...my first book group was 30 some years ago. Through the Junior League and I'm still a member of this group. Our League has grown in size and, I'm proud to say, we now have 4 book groups in the one organization. I'm in Book Group Two and to the other three groups, I understand we have the rep for reading "difficult" books, whatever that means. I guess because we don't read best sellers. Well, hardly ever, I think The Goldfinch is going to be our first book next fall. Each month, one member hosts (we have lunch) and another member reviews a book and the author.
Recently I moved and decided to meet new people in my neighborhood by joining a book group here as well as remaining in my other long standing one. This new book group has a waiting list and also has the rep of reading books weightier than the best seller list.
Two groups. And quite a difference. The neighborhood book group meets at night and has a facilitator. (Costs me $30 a year) It's a new experience for me and I confess, she's excellent. What's interesting about this book group is this: I may be the only Republican and I'm definitely the only Christian. It's also an older group, I am probably the youngest. No drinks served when we arrive and the review starts promptly at 7 PM and ends at 8. The hostess then offers coffee, fruit and cookies. And there is actually one man in the night group.
In the Junior League book group, it starts at 12 noon, there is lunch and a mix of political parties and religions, but no men. And I am nearly the oldest.
I confess, I truly like the books chosen in both groups, for the main anyway. There are always books that disappoint, no matter what the critics say...and I did not like ending the JL year with The Yellow Birds, it was depressing and sad. Would rather have ended on an upbeat. (Someone told me to read Matterhorn, which is the same subject [war] as the other, but better written.) Only once last year did the two groups choose the same book, The Round House.
According to the facilitator in the new book group, the best book of last season was Harvest. I agreed, but oddly, only two others liked it as well as I did. She has already made her choice for our first book next fall (A Constellation of Vital Phenomena), but gave us a list to choose the other 5.
We have input in the JL group (I suggested Harvest) and one of us is the organizer.....I don't envy her.....and in the end, it's pretty much up to her what we read. I also like the idea of each of us taking turns doing the reviewing...it keeps us on our toes. But there's something to be said for the facilitator too. She's originally from New York (and can't help but be shocked to find herself in small town USA) and certainly well educated, but is determined put a political or environmental slant on most of the books and frankly, I didn't care for her gratuitous knocks at Bush and Romney frequently this year when they have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the book. I am fair-minded, but it annoyed and at times, even angered me as it was unnecessary. I bit my tongue.
This is not the case in the other book group, but then I've known these girls for many more years and perhaps when we review, we are more cautious with any political opinions. I cringe to think what would have happened if Yellow Birds had been reviewed by the facilitator.
So here's my conundrum: I debated resigning from this second group this spring, but decided to stay one more year and see if it got any better. Do I dare open my mouth? Will the other members ask me what on earth I'm talking about? Remember, my problem is with the facilitator, not the members. For all I know, they may agree with me, but I'm still a comparatively new member and don't feel I can ask.