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Let’s Talk About Book Clubs

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<i> The Book Review invites readers to send us a few paragraphs about your book club, and particularly to send in lists of the books that have made for the best (and worst) discussions. A sampling:</i>

Abby Franklin, Sherman Oaks: Our most literate member is responsible for our worst book--Gore Vidal’s “Empire” about which he is mercilessly teased. “Bleak House,” “The Castle,” “Picturing Will” were ill-chosen works by good authors. We’ve “discovered” authors--Kundera and Delillo--and gratefully resurrected others--Stegner and Malamud.

Jim Haun, Pacific Palisades: About the intellectual level of our reading group someone else will have to judge, but we’re surely contenders in the number of meetings department. We began in September, 1965, and we meet weekly on Tuesday nights. Our total number of meetings to date is certainly over 1,200--any challengers?

I’ve been the primary picker of readings all these years, and it’s been a heavy burden--what incredible piles of trash I’ve sorted through to find the gems worthy of us!

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Of our most-read authors Alice Munro wins by a large margin. Why? Read her and you will know. In second place is V.S. Pritchett. Individual stories also get repeated: “Sorrow--Acre” by Isak Dinesen, “The Real Thing” by Henry James and three times, by request, “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities” by Delmore Schwartz.

Rae Jeane Williams, Los Angeles: “Who won?” asked my friend’s 8-year-old son the morning after our book club met at her house. This question best captures our book club as discussion turns into passion about what we have read and what we will read at our monthly meetings.

Since 1990 we have read 57 books together. The longest, “A Suitable Boy” by Seth, the shortest “Of Love and Dust” by Gaines, the most challenging “The Satanic Verses” by Rushdie, the oldest “Mansfield Park” by Austen, the most shocking “Blood Meridien” by McCarthy, the most obscure “Ask the Dust” by Fante, the most poignant “A Personal Matter” by Oe, one of the best “None to Accompany Me” by Gordimer and the one with the most four letter words “How Late It Was, How Late” by Kelman.

Jennifer Horsman, Laguna Beach: To the continuous disgruntlement of spouses and lovers, our club is compromised of all women, in the scientifically unsupported but universally held belief that this makes for a better book club. Members include a professor, a neurologist, a writer, an artist, a belly dancer, a principal, a rich person, an architect’s assistant, an IBM executive and a mom.

Our favorite books: “The English Patient” by Michael Ondaatje--we’re still talking about how beautiful that book was--and “Jazz” by Toni Morrison, considered by all the most beautifully written book we’ve read.

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