Monday, June 27, 2011

My Response --Now UPDATED with response to response

Hi, [Leona],

I appreciate your honesty and I think my mom would, too. She respects you a lot so I think she would be very understanding if you address this concern directly with her. If you prefer to call her, her phone number is [...]. (She's out of town until Wed. though.)

That said, if you think that it might be more of a benefit to the group to ensure that no one person in general would "dominate" a discussion, maybe--and I don't know if it's worth proposing to [friend's name] because she is the book club coordinator?--at the top of the next meeting we could take a few minutes to decide as a group on a few rules that might help everyone be more at ease.

Just my thoughts.

UPDATE (9:27 p.m.): I've been avoiding my e-mail since I sent it, but about an hour after I replied, Leona sent the response below. . . my comments in bold.

Ok. Let's try your idea [I assume she means my brilliant "save it for group" idea]. I don't know her well enough to say anything [uh, TO HER FACE, anyway!] and would not want to hurt her feelings ["at least not directly which was why I was trying to foist it off on her daughter"].

Let's see how it goes. It should be fun [on what planet is creating rules to prevent people talking too much FUN!?]. Thx [she doesn't mean that, either].

She was probably shooting daggers with her eyes at the screen while she was typing that.

Well, then, I am just going to let this marinate among her and whoever constitutes the "we" of her previous ignorant e-mail, and see what happens at the next meeting. (I've got you all on the hook for that, now, don't I?) It's not until the end of AUGUST. And you may recall that my mom (she of the five plus sentences) is hosting.

Oh, can they really keep it contained for that long?

Stay tuned, kiddies.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

From the Living Room to the Schoolyard

So, late in the evening on the day after our book club met, an e-mail appeared in my in-box. It was from someone in the book club group, somebody I really do not know well--she came into the group via someone else, and is not a "neighborhood" resident although her home is pretty close to the 'hood--but is a pretty easy character to read, at least in my opinion. I'll call her "Leona" for ease of reference.

Don't get me wrong: Leona is smart, she loves her kids and provides well for them. She must be likeable in some way, because she's friends with someone else in the group.

But OH MY GOSH the attitude.

The "I'm in two other book groups" attitude. The "I work in medicine so I know a lot" attitude. The "I know a lot so no one should debate me" attitude. The "I don't want to hear from you if you don't agree with me" attitude.

The one that made her eyes shoot daggers at my mom when Mom got a little caught up in what Leona was saying and wanted to dialogue but accidentally interrupted her (because she was not done what she was going on about).

Yeah, that one.

Therefore, I knew that the real subject line should have read "Warning! Drama Enclosed" but I read it anyway.

It was too good not to share. My comments in bold.

[...G]ood seeing you last night. Thx for bringing your book ideas [that really don't coincide with anything anybody else wants to read].

I am reaching out to you in confidence
[yeah, right--the first rule of book club is that there are no secrets in book club] because we [I'm sorry--where did "we" come from all of a suddent? I saw no cc's on this e-mail, and BTW who died and made you club president?] wanted to ask your help in guiding your mom a bit during the book club. [Say what?] Your mom is so smart [yeah, shockingly so for a homemaker, huh?] and we all love her [again, who is this "we" and why do I sense a "BUT" coming on?] and she has a lot to say, which is important.

But [Aha!] it is hard for all of us to have a discussion because she ends up dominating most conversations
[Excuse me--"most"? You weren't even here last time!] and continues to have more [have more what? crackers?] when others are sharing. Last night it became uncomfortable for most. [Again, who? Was there a secret follow-up meeting?] That's why I called on people later. [Yeah, being put on the spot is SO not uncomfortable at all!]

Is there any way that you
[ME!?] could advise her to be mindful of this. Usually the first 4-5 sentences are perfect, meaningful, insightful-but she goes on and on after that. [Wait, wait, wait--you are counting her SENTENCES? Is there a limit I don't know about?] Should we give her a 1 minute hour glass [!!! (I have no words)] or can you nudge her [WTF? You mean I have to sit next to her and assault her at every freaking meeting from now on?] after a few sentences?

Please let me know your thoughts and if I am off base.
[Oh, absolutely, because you'd take that so well.]

My blood was boiling a bit after I read that. Fortunately, my first reaction was a good one: I closed it and walked away.

I still have not answered it, as I have been mulling over my options.

Option 1: Say nothing. I do not want to dignify this whacko e-mail with a response.

Option 2: Tell her that she's putting me in an awkward position and to leave me out of it.
I mean, how would she like it if I walked up to her daughter and said, "Kid, I don't like the way your mom talks to people; would you tell her to back off? Oh, but that didn't come from me"?

Option 3: Play completely dumb.
"Gee, Leona, if there's a problem with people talking too long, maybe you could talk to [the club coordinator who I think is the friend who brought her in] about establishing a moderator for each meeting, and maybe the group should propose and agree on some rules."

Option 4: Tell her she is "off base" and immature for singling out one person and then not having the huevos to tell that person directly that she has a problem with that person.
After which I would declare, "I quit!" because I don't have time for passing notes in the schoolyard.

Our next meeting is not until the end of August, but here's the most fabulous twist ever:

My mom volunteered to host it.

I guess Leona would just want her to stay in the kitchen where she belongs, then.

June Book Club in Summary

Well, I went to the book club meeting without having finished the book--partly because I was a little too hooked on 13 Little Blue Envelopes, and partly because I really was avoiding a book that talked a lot about cancer (sad about my cat's recent bout with cancer) and described the awful plight of an indigent black family (just sad all over). Some of the questions went over my head, obviously, and some things were revealed that I hadn't read yet. I wouldn't claim "spoilers," just because it's my own fault that I did not finish.

I would note that this is not the first time I went without having finished a selected book. One time, they assigned two books, and I just could not devote any time or interest to the second one (The Thirteenth Tale), so I skimmed it. It was totally "meh" to me, although it turned out to be a favorite among a fair proportion of the group.

The highlights:

--Our hostess' house was really interesting--I mean, it's similar in basic layout to most of the other houses in my parents' neighborhood (my parents' being slightly different because the front door and garage are reversed, so the living room is sideways and not longways)--there was a lot of cool art on the living room walls. Some was photography and some was painting.

--As we were getting our beverages (me: wine) in the dining room, we observed a dry-erase board propped up on a side table with the headings "Boy" and "Girl." There's going to be a new baby in the house next month, so the board contained a bunch of name ideas. They already have a daughter, but they chose not to find out early if the new baby will be a son or a daughter. My mom put in a plug for her name. Happens every time. (Well, she was named after somebody.)

--I got to show off my Kindle a little bit. One thing I did realize as I was discussing the pros and cons with one of the other club members is that it's much easier to leave a paperback on the front seat of your car (guilty, just about 24/7) than a Kindle ("Steal me!" it screams).

--One of our club members who made it that night is a nurse (we actually have two nurses in the group) and another one is a biologist (I think) so it was interesting to get their take on medical rights and privacy.

--The wine was refreshing.

The not-so-highlights:

--This was a rescheduled meeting, and a lot of people could not make it--as they could not make the other date, anyway, as many people's schedules go haywire when summer comes. We had seven people, and usually it runs around ten to twelve (or more).

--Obviously, when there are fewer people, it's a bit more noticeable who are the talkers and who are the listeners. Unless I'm fired up about something or really feel I can contribute, I fall more in the listener category. I don't mind hearing other people talk.
Maybe it's the librarian in me, but I really enjoy listening to other people talk about something they've read, and how it made them think, and what it made them think about.

--However, I could tell that one particular person was getting agitated by the the fact that someone else talked as much as she did. (I guess there's room for only one of those in each group?) I'll get into the fallout in my next post. As a reaction to her own irritation, she took it upon herself to "go around the room" and make- I mean, give each person the opportunity to say something about the book.
Again, maybe this is the teacher-librarian in me, but it feels wrong to force people to talk. Kills the dialogue and spontanaeity. Yeah, that's it.

--I wound up having to go back to retrieve my purse after walking back to my parents' house. I think I had set it on the floor to make more room on the sofa for other people, and then it was out of sight, out of mind for the rest of the night. (I did get an introduction to the hostess' husband at that time, which was a nice thing.)

Our next selection--and when I say "our" I mean the book they chose after rejecting the three titles I suggested--is Cutting for Stone.

Looks like another uplifting read!

And more medical stuff. What is it with all the medical stuff!?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Just When I Thought I Had Plenty to Report. . .

Oh, there is so much to say about last night's meeting. Even with just seven people in attendance.

But wait! It gets better!

This afternoon, one of the members who was present last night sent me a follow-up e-mail. She has a problem, and it's not with me.

Yet, she is asking me to solve it.

I have to think of a diplomatic way to refuse to be dragged into it.

Honestly, if the selection of yet another depressing story isn't enough to make me quit, this issue just might be.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Book Club Tomorrow

As of right now, I am on Chapter 19. I might be reading all night and all day tomorrow so I can finish.

It's not a bad read, but it is a little depressing. O.K., a lot depressing. This woman dies of cancer in the '50s--a horrible death, because there weren't that many options to treat cancer, her cancer was very aggressive, and she got second-rate treatment because she was black and medicine was very segregated. The use and reproduction of some of her cancerous tissue started out as innocent sharing for research, and I'm getting to the point in the story where mass production is making money off it. Outrageous stuff.

I already did not want to read about cancer because my cat was diagnosed with cancer at the end of April and it's been rough going.

Definitely don't want to bring that up at the meeting tomorrow night. I probably won't have to. This is so racially charged that I'm sure someone will get fired up about something. And by someone I mean many of the usual characters. We will be missing some members because some people disappear for the summer, beach houses and whatnot. I will miss my librarian friend and mentor because she is traveling.

Our hostess this time around is pretty pregnant with baby #2 so this probably is her last appearance for a while. She's gonna have her hands full.

They tell us to bring suggestions for the next read. I want something upbeat.

I was going to suggest Sugar Queen which two people from school told me they liked, or The Happiness Project. I also just read about My Year with Eleanor, but I don't know if that one or Happiness will work.

After the My Fair Lazy fiasco, which someday when I get over the trauma I will relate, I'm thinking these people don't like memoirs much.

Or maybe they don't like funny people's memoirs that much.

I honestly can't tell.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Meeting in Flux

I just put The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot on my Kindle (this is my first title on the Christmas gift I haven't used yet). . . and now that I'm picking up e-mail after not having checked in during a hectic last week of school, I'm seeing that there is a movement to change Monday's book club night. There are moms saying that this is the only week between school and camp so they are taking vacation (no comment but this kid who never went to camp is rolling her eyes a little--I know, sorry, working moms), and other people saying there are other things going on.

It would be fine by me. I've had a hectic last week of school, including battles a miserable cold and a heat wave, so extra time to read would be helpful.
The problem is that one of the members is pushing for everyone to attend an event she arranged for that night (that's why she and one other won't make it). She called me and I was polite but non-committal. Frankly, I'd rather stay in and turn in early. I'm just exhausted and I don't want to get sick again.

Of course, her real purpose for calling was that she wants to introduce me to her son. I think he's younger than I am, but that's not really an issue for me. But oh, there are issues for sure. Like it's just weird to be introduced to the son of one of your parents' neighbors. If it goes badly, it's awkward. If it goes well, it's just as fraught with awkwardness and boundary issues. And I won't even get into the man-hater vibe I seem to get from her, but maybe she just hates his dad. Which is a whole other thing to worry about. But, as I told her, life's too short not to be open-minded to things.

In response, she said great. . . then, "How do people set up blind dates?" I said I don't really know, but I like coffee. Hint taken.

I think it pretty much is settled that the meeting will not be tomorrow. A good thing for me, because I'm still trying to finish another book that's due back at the library tomorrow.

I'm out of renewals.