My book group meets about once a month. It’s almost nine years now and there’s never been much discussion about a name. Come to think of it, there hasn’t been any. We’re a sui generis bunch, currently okay with our unpretentious/portentous acronym, GWNN-Y ~ Group With No Name-Yet. But we’re traumatizingly good at giving out awards ~ THE GWNNYs ~ once a year to our favorite author, character and book. All by ourselves, in someone’s living room.
I like our democratic style. We each get a turn to choose a book (by way of miracle or magic) and then some of us actually read it. Or not. Either way, there’s no moral obligation to say that you liked it.
Fiction, nonfiction, cookbook, exposé, true crime or classic ~ it’s all fodder for discussion that often includes cover art, jacket copy, the hummus-thingy in the snack bowl, any food that is important to us, and who read the last page first.
Coming up for us in July is an oldie-but-goodie, Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser. It’s over a century since Dreiser began his first novel by writing on a half-sheet of yellow copy paper the words “Sister Carrie.”
It tells the story of two characters: Carrie Meeber, an ordinary girl who rises from low-paid wage earner to high-paid actress, and George Hurstwood, a member of the upper-middle class who falls from his comfortable lifestyle to a life on the streets. I’m thinking it’s the perfect book for We-Who-Digress. There’s a mistress of a traveling salesman, an accomplice to a theft, chorus girls, strikes and strikebreakers, celebrity and suicide.
Want to read it with us? There’s a Project Gutenberg free e-book here.
We’re all familiar with the classics and best sellers from way back when, but how many have we actually read? (Cliff Notes do not count.) Like The Man In the Gray Flannel Suit by Sloan Wilson, recently reissued with a new introduction.
Are you a fan of MadMen? Westport, Connecticut up-and-comers Tom and Betsy Rath are the roots from which Don and Betty Draper grew. This novel about the veneer of suburban prosperity, and the disaffection that roils underneath it, hit the shelves in 1955.
Arguably Ireland’s most well-regarded literary son, James Joyce, wasn’t always an optimistic fellow but he told a cracking good story. This is his first novel which introduces us to Stephen Dedalus (who returns in Ulysses). The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man laces together scenes from an Irish upbringing that is like the author’s own and reveals, in details both poignant and mordantly funny, Joyce’s conflicted feelings about Ireland, Catholic guilt and the myriad ties that bind.
Are you reading a classic? Revisiting an oldie-but-goodie? Rediscovering an emerald among the M&Ms? Do share.