If and when I write my novel (did you know that November is National Novel Writing Month?) I’ll be thrilled if even one person deems it a “page-turner”. Speed reading, however, isn’t the sole indicator of reader involvement. Call me eccentric, but I can suggest a more significant benchmark.
Here’s what happens: you’ve already passed the “continue or abandon in favor of next book” stage; the story has earned your approval. Then, you know you are truly committed when you imagine a friend or acquaintance reading along and enjoying, commenting upon, or even disdaining the book. The point is, you’re already sharing the book and prompting a response to it–and you haven’t even finished it. Notice how I attribute all this to “you” in the hopes that I’m not the only person who does this?
This very process played out during preparation for yesterday’s Baca Center book discussion. The particularly vibrant Great Conversations selection was “Hekabe” by Euripides, a dramatist who can condense more pathos and ethical dilemmas into a few dozen pages than anyone else you could name. As Hekabe (Hecuba) grieved, argued, and plotted her way through the multi-layered tragedy, some of her assertions evoked speculation: what would group members say about that? By “say”, I mean not merely comment but also document opinions with passages brought along or reviewed in advance of the meeting. Yes, it’s that kind of group.
Nothing like that occurred during my perusal of a title I couldn’t resist: Target Underwear and a Vera Wang Gown. Adena Halpern’s contemporary dilemmas, e.g., whether to ditch her stylist, registered as so much less compelling than Hekabe’s ancient but ageless ones. Without relating myself, it’s no surprise that I couldn’t channel anyone else’s participation.
Already sold my on my current read, Cristina Garcia’s wonderful The Lady Matador’s Hotel, I found a particularly sensual passage provoking this vividly imagined scenario: my mom has chosen this book for a a group of her contemporaries. They’re sitting in her living room, reading it aloud. Suddenly, eyes widen, lips purse, the room goes silent. Finally, one ventures, “Well, I guess we don’t know Jean as well as we thought we did!”
You’ll find The Lady Matador’s Hotel among the titles offered as Book Club Carryouts. All Carryout selections will delight some book clubs, and overall they represent a range of reading tastes. I hope you’ll share them, whether your fellow readers are actual or imaginary!