"Curiosity is insobordination in its purest form." - Nabokov
Saturday morning I picked up My Sister’s Keeper, I am reading this book for my book club that meets a week from Wednesday. I had about 100 pages left. Before I knew it I was figuring out the ending before it was over and then all of a sudden it really was over. I hate finishing books... I feel that as soon as I get wrapped up in them they end. The second I was finished reading the book I wanted to call some of my girlfriends from book club to discuss, but I couldn’t. What if they were not finished? Plus we are discussing the book a week from Wednesday, it is not fair to the host for everyone to discuss it before hand. To be honest, it wasn’t the greatest book, in fact I wouldn’t even recommend it unless it is being read for a reading group. It is a great book for discussion and an okay book to read on your own.
After I finished the book I felt like I should do something, but wasn’t sure what. I thought maybe writing was the answer. I would love to do a piece for my own blog, I have so many thoughts floating around in my head that I would love to put down, but I seem to keep pushing my blog to the end of all of my priorities. I thought maybe I could get a head start on my VSoM post. Possibly create drafts rather then publish drafts as my finished product. Organization might be a nice change of pace for me. I opened up our chart and discovered it was already book club time again for VSoM. I’d purchased the book last week, the same day that I purchased my other book club book, the one I had just finished. I had hoped to do so many things this weekend but here I found myself doing what I have done with every single book club book for VSoM, re-prioritizing my weekend to fit in reading a book... only this time it was the book I had picked.
Some weekend priority’s could not be shifted and as a result I was unable to pick up Reading Lolita in Tehran until Saturday evening around 11 pm. I fell asleep quickly, but woke up early and then finally threw in the towel around 2 pm today and went back to my old list of priorities... laundry, cleaning my house and having an enjoyable diner with my roommate Mike before my week of work starts up again.
So be it known I am about 75 pages shy of finishing what I have found a very enjoyable book. Reading Lolita in Tehran has made me think about the roll my own book club has played in my life. I feel almost guilty even discussing my book club in comparison to Azar’s. Our book club is not illegal, our books can be purchased easily, our discussions are not nearly as intense, we show up in whatever we want to wear, none of us have been in prison for being strong women and we only meet once a month rather then every Thursday.
Yet the book still reminded me of my own book club because ours is all women, we don’t all see eye to eye, but we educate one another and learn about each others views and lives in a way that can’t be done at a dinner party or a dance club or over Sunday brunch. We, like the girls in Tehran, each read the book a bit differently, associate our own lives to the work somehow and enter book club with a different understanding of the book then the girl sitting on either side of us and leave with a different understanding of one another, a much more personal one then when we began.
Inspired by Azar Nafisi I want to tell you just how I became part of a book club and why it has changed my life for the better and why this book club will always be something I look back on with fondness.
About two and a half years ago a girl was hired at the company down the hall. Commercial rents have increased so significantly over the past few years that many companies had moved off our floor so that when there was a new body on our floor everyone noticed. The girl, Marta, seemed to be about my age and we seemed to always need to use the restroom at the same time. We said hello often and were cordial, but not much beyond that. Then one day my company had a political event for Gavin Newsom which I played a heavy role in planning. I invited all of the companies on the floor. Later this girl’s company was also having an event and so she came to me to see who we had used to cater, etc. One happy hour later we discovered we enjoyed each others company. Before I knew it I was invited along to parties, dinners and then one day I was invited to book club.
My first book club Renee hosted and we read The Curious Incident of a Dog in The Night. Renee lived in a beautiful apartment on Arguelo and California. I didn’t know anyone. I had met a few of the girls at Suite One 8 One at a party that Marta threw one evening, but had spent most of the evening talking to other people so I didn’t even remember their names and some even their faces. I felt a bit out of place at book club and Marta seemed to be making an effort not to hang out with me, forcing me to be friendly with all of the other girls, forcing me to mingle and meet. It was a lot of work, especially considering that one of the very first girls I met I wished I had never met. She annoyed me to no end. But then we started discussing the book and the book club turned a book that I hadn’t thought much about, that I thought was mediocre into something that I thought was really great. It also made me realize that I was surrounded by many wonderfully intelligent women, women that I realized I wanted to be around more.
That night I walked home with Jen, a girl I had just met. For two girls that new nothing about one another we had told some of our deepest and darkest secrets in the most matter a fact comfortable manner imaginable on that walk home. This was definitely a result of the book club. Not one of us had a child suffering from autism, or a sibling, but somehow we each were able to draw part of our own life from the book. Letting one another into our thoughts creates this bond that Azar describes so eloquently through out her book.
Due to a broken wrist from a snow boarding accident, a broken wrist that needed to be broken again (for the second time by the hospital), I missed my second book club, The Last Girls. I didn’t mind too much because the book was horrible. I don’t need to imagine women the age of my grandmother having sex until I am the age of my grandmother. I can’t imagine that any discussion would have made this book a better book. But still I am sure I missed out because now all I am left with is my own view of the book.
My next book club was Lolita hosted by Beth. Ironically I think this book club will stick out in my mind as the one where I learned the most about everyone. I had been hanging out with Marta for a few months and as a result had met many of the girls in social settings so their faces were no longer unfamiliar, but book club isn’t necessarily a social setting. We may begin the night talking about celebrities and gossiping about who is dating who and who just broke up and what our most recent purchase was, or what we would like our next purchase to be, but our true personalities come out when we begin discussing a book. Most of the girls hated Lolita and for good reason. Some didn’t enjoy the book because they had younger sisters Lolita’s age and kept picturing their little sister as the character Lolita. Others thought it was the most tragic love storey ever. Others didn’t like the way it was written and others did. Everyone spoke, sometimes all at once. Nobody was wrong and nobody was right, but sitting and listening to everyone and seeing such different perspectives taught me so very much about each individual. I left that night feeling very special to be a part of such a wonderful discussion.
Since then we have read Blue Angel by Francine Prose; Perfume by Patrick Suskind; The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomas; The Dirt by Motley Crue; The Other Boylen Girl by Philippa Gregory; A Girl Becomes a Comma Like That by Lisa Glatt; Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini; Cather in the Rye by J.D. Salinger; The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera; The Plot Against America by Phillip Roth and now My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult.
I would like to sit and tell you about every single one of these books and about every single one of the discussions - who likes what and who didn’t like what and why, but I think it might not be as interesting for you as it is for me. Each book has taught me something about myself and something about my friends. We are all so different and all so similar. To have the freedom to gather together and discuss a book, and not have to worry about how we are going to get the book or how we are going to explain being gone from our home or why we need pastries is very very lucky and something we should all take advantage of.
In many ways I think Marta handed me a life line when she invited me to book club that very first time. I know that Azar provided a life line when she began her book club in Tehran. I would like so badly to do away with VSoM's book club, but I then I think that everyone should be a part of one.
Oh what to do?