It’s A Mystery To Me

Feb 05

I love my book club.
That’s The Geez Louise International Book Club to you, bub. AKA “GLIB.”

And I beg to differ with Motoko Rich, who writes in the Times (“The Book Club With Just One Member”), that there is a “different class of reader” — people who are more serious about reading — who don’t join book clubs. People who feel that “their relationship with a book is too intimate to share with others.”

HA! Actually, I don’t beg at all. I loudly proclaim my right — and the right of book clubbies everywhere — to differ like hell!

Our book club consists of the usual suspects: Louise (hence the Geez), Betsy, Sharon, Diana and me. We had Silvia, but when she moved back to Italy, we kept International in the title. Because we could. We are (or were) all involved with publishing — as writers, editors, consultants, and yes, even publishers. We all love books. We lived for them, literally.

vintagenancyflashlight.jpgLike Ms Rich, as a child I read books by flashlight, or even the light of the radio. I knew there were secrets in those pages (They were!) that the grownups weren’t telling me (They weren’t!). The experience was all the more delicious for the naughtiness of it all.

But that was then, and this is now.

I still stay up late reading, but I use a book light. Now that I think of it, though. . . flashlights were a favorite prop of Nancy Drew, whose books my company produced for over a decade, although she usually used it for detective work.

Nancy very conveniently had no mother and a very indulgent father, so only Hannah the Housekeeper could stop her from staying up all night with her favorite novel. If Nancy had wanted to use a flashlight, Hannah would have brought some extra batteries and some freshly baked cookies. That women, bless her heart, was a real pushover.

Now, The New York Times may think that my love for Nancy (shared by Justice Sotomayer, among many, many other prominent women) makes me unserious about reading.

Unserious! Moi! You wouldn’t say that if you saw my apartment . . (Go to Read More)

The Secret in The Old Bookcases

My home is crawling with books of every description, not just in the bookcases, messy and overflowing, but everywhere: on almost every flat surface, even the floor. They are as much a part of my life as the two M’s: Martinis and Mallomars. More, even. Honest.

nancydmysttrunk.jpgI even have this first edition of Nancy Drew, signed by Mildred Wirt Benson, the intrepid original author of the series who didn’t get all the fuss (she just wrote some books), and wanted to talk to me about why they wouldn’t let her fly solo just because she was 92. Wotta woman. If Nancy was our fictional hero, Mildred was a real life role model.

But other than rare editions, I like to share my books. Not just physically, although I lost track long ago of what I’ve given to whom. Sometimes I ask that the book be returned; more likely I don’t. I love the idea that my books are out there in world, making new friends. 

And I really enjoy discussing books with the group. As an editor, Mathew Bucher, says in the Times piece, “I still read the book at home at night by myself with one lamp. (But) the next day it does enhance my experience to talk about it.” Yes. Yes it does.

Sort of agreeing, grudgingly, with Ms Rich for a minute: I do have a few books that speak to me in a way I cannot for the life of me explain: Aunt Julia and The Scriptwriter (beyond quirky), The Book of Common Prayer (I don’t even know what the title means), White Noise (Well, that’s an acknowledged masterpiece). And I do hesitate to suggest these books to the club because I’m not sure what everyone else will think. Maybe I will be hurt if they don’t like them. Like they’d be badmouthing my best friend or something.

What I really like is finding someone  — by pure chance  — who is equally enamored of one of “my” books. But rather than feeling “a twinge of “no fair, that’s mine,'” as Rich says, I get very excited by the discovery that someone else loves the book I love, and I want to know why. When it comes to the books I love I can be truly clueless. Why this book? Why me? Could it be like love itself: inexplicable and mysterious? Well, hell, Valentine’s Day is coming. Will any of these books be expecting cards?

Meanwhile, I look forward to the next meeting of GLIB. Discussing, digressing, arguing, agreeing, figuring out which salad and/or sandwich to split (we meet for lunch) and yes, digesting, the food and the book. We don’t do wine, but maybe we should. In vino veritas and all that. The insights might flow more freely. Or the disagreements. Oh well. As long as we talk about the book, I’m good. Although it’s no secret  that there’s always a little girl talk (we’re females) and gossip (we’re human).

The real mystery about my book club is how hard it is get these people on the same page. I mean, I know we’re all busy, but really. Setting up a meeting and getting everyone to attend it is like organizing the Geneva Convention. But if you’re out there, Sharon, I got Louise’s email and the 9th is good for me, too. And yes, Diana & Betsy, we’re meeting on the West Side this month. 

And just in case the lighting is bad, bring flashlights.



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