Wednesday, February 28, 2007

How I Passed The Time At The In-Laws (part 1)

Aside from the aforementioned visit to the Tech (see the last post), my son and I ended up in San Jose for a week, which threw me for a loop, and had the little guy convinced that we were going to stay with grandma and grandpa "for a hundred days". Thankfully, that did not come to pass, as we returned to New Orleans yesterday, despite missing our 6:20 AM flight (my father-in-law didn't want to wake his darling sleeping grandson - let's just leave it at that. Mull that one over, everybody...).

My mother-in-law kvetched to me a little about her current reading material, a book club selection by Amos Oz. She just couldn't get into it at all, and I could sympathize, because I slogged through one book by that man and swore I'd never attempt another of his books. I'd describe his prose as "detailed detachment", and that's being nice... in truth, the damn book bored me to tears. She then told me that at least two ladies in her book club were snobby about the books that were chosen - they would pick these books like the Oz selection, and then put down the people like my MIL who just couldn't get into them. Thankfully, there are waaay more women in the group who are not like that, but the whole thing only put into focus a few reasons why I never got into a book club of any sort.

a) our very first book clubs are schools, and if you know what schools are like, or if you can remember back to your own time in the clique-ish clink, you know that schools can very easily kill a good book with overanalysis and overuse of homework concerning the book ( like one mom I spoke to recently said of a teacher who pretty much destroyed To Kill A Mockingbird for her daughter), or they can kill anyone's desire to read, period. Try to get any average guy to read Pride and Prejudice, for instance, and you'll have better luck dragging said guy in for a prostate exam and simultaneous root canal.
b) I trust my own tastes with regards to what I want to read, even when I went berserk as a teenager and read the high school equivalent of Harlequin romances and the Sweet Valley High series for a year or two. I really don't need to have my reading material validated in a book club setting. Really, I don't. Because I believe, in the end, that any avid reader will use his/her brain and heart after decades of putting the printed word in front of his/her face and pick whatever the hell he/she wants to read without worrying about what other people think. When anyone starts to worry about that kind of stuff, reading for pleasure is an abstraction. A book club at that point is simply adding literary veneer to a coffee klatch.

So, after some thought, I put down a short list of my most recently read books for the MIL. Off the top of my head, here's some of them:

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Foer

The Disappointment Artist,
As She Climbed Across The Table - Jonathan Lethem

Tough Jews,
The Avengers,
Sweet and Low - Rich Cohen

Side Effects,
Secondhand Smoke,
Odds - Patty Friedmann

Blue Monday - Rick Coleman

Yes We Have No,
The Heart of the World - Nik Cohn

Mister Jelly Roll - Alan Lomax

Be Sweet - Roy Blount Jr.

Breach of Faith - Jed Horne

Notes on some of the selections: I haven't finished Breach of Faith yet, but if it's anything like Horne's Desire Street, it may well end up being one of my top choices of all of the books about Katrina that have come out. I've just finished Cohen's Sweet and Low, and it is a memoir that ought to be a lesson to families everywhere: watch how you act when you get high and mighty, because you never know when a darned good writer in the family is going to wield his pen against you. In other words, great guilty pleasure read. Finally, since I'm a t-shirt nut, Roy Blount's memoir has what has to be my all-time favorite incorrect English usage t-shirt slogan in it, but you'll have to read the book to find out what it is. The rest of it is darned good, too, and funny as hell, especially Blount's analysis of any and all Juniors out there in the world.

Part 2 of Time Spent At the In-Laws is coming soon. Hint: it involves this.

Oh, and for more book mania, head over here. Heh heh.


Maitri said...

I'm sick of talking about Part 2 with everyone outside this state. Consider writing out a one-pager and giving it to them. Then, they'll pester you that everyone's asking the same thing so they're justified.

San Jose, huh? Would they like me to write a geologist's treatise on why San Jose shouldn't have been settled and shouldn't be rebuilt in case of their own lurking disaster? Bloody 'ell.

This is why I'm going to blog about everything other than NOLA for a week. My head spins from the fallout.

Glad you're back!

Leigh C. said...

Actually, Part 2 is a tad more optimistic than you'd think.

I realized, too, that I mixed up A.B. Yehoshua with Amos Oz. My bad.

And truthfully, if anyone is going to "get it" as far as the problems we're facing, it's Left Coasters.

saintseester said...

I've really been enjoying reading about your encounters with the others. I mean in your travels (part 2 above, too).

As for the book club, if you find the right group it works. I like mine, if for nothing else, once a month, I have to "expand" my horizons and read something I would not ordinarily choose for myself. Found some wonders / found some losers.

Leigh C. said...

I'm just putting down my personal experience with the book clubs. If it works, it's great, it's ideal, it's Lorna Landvik's "Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons"- kinda territory. If it doesn't, it's unfortunately managed to put people right back to where they were in grade school, using books as the coolness indicator.

I'm glad you've found a situation that is closer to the ideal...