Sunday afternoon, the book club I belong to met at my house to discuss Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger. All but one of our members had read it before, some of us a long time ago. It was an interesting discussion, considering it is the quintessential book about teen male angst being dissected by a group of women ranging in age from 27 to 49. Let’s just say, here, that the actual discussion of the book lasted a very short time, in spite of the fact we were all in agreement that we were glad to have had it as a selection.
For me, personally, Holden Caulfield is a decent enough character. However, the place he holds in my imagination is small compared to the spots reserved for members of the Glass family (characters in Salinger’s short stories and novellas, including Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters, Seymour: An Introduction and Franny and Zooey). The voices of Seymour and Buddy Glass echo in my head frequently, as they have since I first read those books in my junior year of college, 1982.
But I digress. What I set out to share is the story of our book club. We began last spring, invited by my friend Molly. Our first book, Little Bee by Chris Cleave, set the tone of our club. The only thing our selections have had in common is that most of us would never have read them on our own. From the political to the personal to science fiction and fantasy, these books have pushed us to reach a little further. Other selections have included:
The Help – Kathryn Stockett
The Sparrow – Mary Doria Russell
The Road from Coorain – Jill Ker Conway
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
The House at Riverton – Kate Morton
The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood
Most selections have proven to appeal to some members of the group, although The Blind Assassin (which I was not able to read, unfortunately) was hands down the least well-received. I thought The House at Riverton a waste of my time, while The Sparrow, which I had read before, is probably one of my favorite books of all time. Other members of the group expressed the exact opposite views. The Hunger Games, and both subsequent books in the trilogy, were devoured by all.
As we read and discuss, we are learning a lot about one another – and not just our tastes in literature. We learn about each other’s political leanings, spiritual beliefs, homes and family lives as they connect with the subjects and characters in each book. I’m not sure we’ve managed to have a single meeting with all club members present, which adds to the variance of each gathering.
Unlike many clubs, our mode of selecting the next book has been haphazard. At first, at the end of each meeting we would each mention suggestions and then vote for one of the titles thrown out. People seemed reluctant to advocate for their suggested titles, and we sometimes took a very long time to decide. The meeting where Catcher in the Rye was picked, we began a new process for selection: everyone wrote suggestions on slips of paper which were placed in a receptacle. The slip drawn was the next book. We kept the slips, and members were invited to add to the collection before we drew again. Sunday, the slip yielded Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart (watch the bizarre book trailer, here). I have, literally, no idea what to expect. However, I hope to share my take on that and future books as well, perhaps, as the book club’s discussion, in future blog entries.
You are, of course, invited to read along with us!