Saturday, November 5, 2011

Book Club Meeting Minutes

Considering the fact that I just got an e-mail reminder about this month's book club meeting--which is this coming Monday (yikes, need to do that reading)--I figured I'd better get in the minutes from last month's (i.e. September's) meeting.

Meeting: September

Book: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

This meeting, as mentioned previously, was hosted at my mom's house.  Summer finally was starting to make its exit, so she decided to make warm spiced cider and serve donut holes and candy corn (yum).  Also some praline-topped baked brie.  No booze.  I guess she didn't want any alcohol-related brawls--in vino veritas and all that.

Had I read the book?  Well, "skimmed" is more like it.  I just have a hard time getting into stories where it reads like a series of bad things happening to characters that don't really give me a reason to root for them (or maybe even just plain feel sorry for them)--or is it that I'm supposed to feel something for them by the mere occurrence of bad things happening to them all the time?  I don't know.  But in any event, I knew enough to get by in the discussion if not the "discussion questions" (more on those later).

There definitely were more people at this meeting than last time, I think about a dozen people.  What a difference five people can make.  Everyone seemed to like the cider and the food, and even though the praline sauce hardened a bit too quickly, it all got eaten up.  I for one cannot comment on items with cheese as I am allergic, but in general I think when one goes to the extra effort of making something, odds are it will be well-received, as it was at this meeting, especially when people were in the mood for something seasonal.

The most anticipated and/or feared part of the meeting followed right after the greeting and eating: The Format Talk.

Our group organizer--let's call her "Brooke" for ease of reference--had brought a notepad with her to jot down our decisions, I guess.  She sat in a chair that was in front of the fireplace.  To her left (well, not her immediate left because the landing for the steps is there) sat Leona.

"So, I just wanted to check in with everybody to see if they had any thoughts about the format of the book club, if there was anything we wanted to change," said Brooke.

Nobody responded immediately, but eventually someone said she was O.K. with it and most people agreed.

Then Leona started in about how everybody should get a chance to talk, and how she had brought discussion question with her this time.  You know, because she had already read this book for two other book clubs.  So she started pushing for having a moderator for each meeting.  Nobody really responded right away to that, and it was borderline uncomfortable silence.  I think people might have been torn between encouraging Leona (and possibly making her the moderator) by agreeing and getting on her bad side by disagreeing.  As a result, the discussion circled back to the duties of the organizer, and while Brooke said she had no intention of leaving her post as organizer, she suggested that the hostess for each particular meeting be the moderator.  

Nobody objected, at least aloud.  I kept quiet, although--my take?  I think having a moderator, especially for a group as small as ours, interferes with the organic development of the book discussion.  This idea of "everyone must talk" and answering prepared questions (as opposed to someone's posing a question that had arisen during her reading or in response to the reading) just goes against everything I believe in as an educator and just generally a person who recognizes that everyone's different and not all people have something to say at every single meeting.  It might be a classic extrovert/introvert misunderstanding.

So, why did I not speak up?  I often think I'm in the minority, especially as someone who feels on the fringes of this club--more of an auditor, if you will--so I'm not going to introduce an idea that's going to be met with that uncomfortable silence because no one wants to hurt my feelings.  Also, honestly, as much as I wasn't looking forward to talking about the book, I wanted this part of the meeting to end as quickly as possible.

Which it did, with the declaration that this change in format would occur the next time around.

This time, Leona did the leading, question printouts in hand.  Actually, she was fairly pleasant as the moderator, probably because it suits her, and also her extreme familiarity with the book contributed.  

The discussion got unpleasant at times because it ventured into discussions of fistulas (ugh but the medical people in our group were into it), abortions, and FGM (double ugh).  My question was my curiosity regarding the audience: Did those among our group who liked this book also enjoy medical dramas/melodramas on TV, like "Grey's Anatomy"?  Interestingly, the answer was no.  That result surprised me, and ultimately I still did not understand why the majority of the group enjoyed the book so much.  

And yes, I did voice my opinion that I didn't enjoy the book, but I merely said it wasn't my cup of tea.  It was just too sad and I'm still not crazy about reading medical stuff because my cat has cancer.  I don't personally find books full of tragedy and angst all that moving--not that I'm saying a book has to be full of sunshine and good news, but this idea that life is just a series of bad things that fall on hapless humanity is just so. . . I don't know, nihilistic or something.

Anyway, the good news--sort of--was that our next meeting would be around Halloween time, and the hostess for that meeting said she wanted a scary-ish read.  I had something in mind, but I couldn't remember the full title and wasn't able to describe it well enough, so off I went to my parents' computer upstairs (in what was once my bedroom for a few years after my brother moved out).

And of course while I was waiting for the slow-moving dinosaur desktop computer to get me the information I wanted, the conversation continued downstairs and a decision was made.  They were repeating the details when I was walking down the steps.

Oh, well.  They tend not to like my suggestions, anyway.  As a side note, after the meeting, the group got an e-mail from Brooke saying that someone had given the "great" idea of e-mailing around future book selection suggestions ahead of the next meeting, the point being that people could "research" them in advance.  Yeah. . . nobody did that this time around.  I do have an idea and I might send it around, just to see if anyone pans it outright.  Or if they'll wait until the meeting.

So, next meeting's reading is The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, which definitely sounds like something you read in the dark to scare yourself.  I have been woefully behind with everything on my to-read list--to the point of owing $3.00 in fines on overdue books! Even librarians miss due dates! We work hard!--so I haven't gotten to it yet.  I guess I'd better do that soon.

Mom and I were joking about dressing up in goth outfits to please our hostess.  Hmm, I should check with her to see if she still wants to do that.  Those costume stores might still be open with their clearance sales.  Maybe we can find some gothic wigs.

Our gung-ho participation might just win us votes for the next book selection.