Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wednesday Morning Book Club: "Surfacing" by Margaret Atwood

At home with my first book club book, amidst my piles of writing research. 
Why clean when you can read instead?

So how much do I love my new book group?!  Oh holy cow.  I never realized exactly how much happiness discussing a good book brings to me. 

Two weeks  ago, I dropped into my local library to inquire about volunteering.  While waiting for my volunteer application, I  stood around reading all the little flyers and information signs and saw that they had a summer book group for teens.  So, I asked, "Do you have a book group for adults?"

"Why yes.  In fact, they are getting ready to meet right now.  Would you like to meet them?" the Librarian replied.

Tapping into my inner sister, Nicole, I snapped out a reply, "Yes, please!" and was quickly escorted into a small sideroom.  She introduced me to the group who welcomed me and invited me to have a seat.  The Librarian excused herself and there I sat.  I was completely unprepared and had a burrito waiting for me in the car. 

Yet, there I sat with eight little white haired ladies - ladies with names like Eunice and Ginger.  One of them is 87 years old.  They were discussing a book.  They said it was the prequel to Jane Austen's "Emma" and they didn't much care for it.  The ladies discussed the book in earnest, respectfully debating one anothers perspective.  They kept it brief, speaking on the book for a mere 60 minutes, and then they smiled their good-byes and went about their day until the next meeting in two weeks time.

I fell in love.  I've always respected the wisdom and experience of elder persons.  I mean, I know how I feel at forty-two and how the world weighs on me, so I clearly respect that they are still here and still smiling.  Life is hard so that smile is valuable to me.  So in recognition of all that this group had to offer, I signed up and ordered my first book for the next session, "Surfacing" by Margaret Atwood.

Diligently, I read myself into sickness.  I have a difficult time making reading my priority, so this was a challenge for me.  Then, when I finally would commit to reading, my eyes would give out.  I'm past due for a new glasses perscription, so I literally did get sick - headache, nausea, light sensitivity.  Fun stuff.  But, I enjoyed the read.

When we discussed the book in todays meeting, there were mixed reactions.  Most of the ladies said that they liked the first third or two-thirds of the book.  It has three parts.  The first is fairly status quo, the second gets a little tricky and the third section takes you into the deep end.  And, if you are not accostomed to reading literature with an analytical eye, the ending to this book can clearly pull you under and drown you.  I think a lot of the ladies just got out of the pool.  Ha!

But I was nervous.  I didn't want to be the freshly graduated smarty pants, yet I wanted to be seen as a valuable contributor to the group.  So, my hope was that a few of the ladies would speak about the book before they turned to me.  However, Ginger introduced the book, gave an extremely slight reaction to it, announced she would like to know what everyone else thought and immediately turned to me, "Dione, what did you think?"


First up with little premise to go on, I went blank.  So, I nervously chatted about how I buy the book versus checking it out from the library (likely the whole purpose of our group is to keep the library in business by checking out books every two weeks).  I show them the highlights in my paperback while nervously looking at all faces for reactions and frantically trying to remember what it was I wanted to say about the book.  And, not helpful in the least, was the facial expression of one of the ladies who looked mortified that I would ink up a book like that.  I quickly recollected the author and that I had read only one of her books before, "The Handmaid's Tale" for a moral philosophy class I took in my undergrad at USC (I actually passed this book to my sister, Nicole, a few years back).  At this point, I told myself that I better produce something valuable to say and stop clambering or soon they would doubt letting me walk in the door.  So I blurted out something in reference to having never read anything relative to the hippie era before and how I welcomed that idea, and that I agreed with them about the first two sections but found the third section to be quite supernatural and wasn't yet certain how I felt about it.  This was all they needed from me and Ginger asked the next lady to speak on it.

I sat back, exhaled and then kicked myself.  But when I saw that they were open to comments on their responses, I felt at ease that I hadn't lost all chances of contribution and am certainly confident enough to re-enter the discussion should the opportuinity arise.

The discussion continued around the table and interjections were welcome.  I felt compelled to explicate on a few areas of ambiguity and quickly earned the respect of my fellow literary ladies.  In fact, at a certain point when we seemed to be done discussing, one of them introduced a slight idea of metaphor and I womped them with a big one, stating clearly that this was purely my opinion and forgive me if I'm reaching but, "It seems to me that the lake in this book is a metaphor for the protagonist's womb and, given the era, a speak on feminism.  Consider that most of the characters in this book are male and that only the males enter the water.  And, that the water is dangerous.  Her father died there.  Her brother almost drowned there.  She had an incident there.  Numerous men appear in the lake, men who we don't know.  There is a fence surrounding the cabin to keep you safe from the water..."

Gulp, again.

A momentary pause and the group buzzed in discussion once again.  All but one thought this was a remarkable theory that offered new perspective.  Ginger announced, "Well, maybe we actually did like this story afterall!" as she laughed. 

The risk paid off and I was welcomed in with warmth and smiles.  They said I brought a new perspective to the group and they were glad I joined.  Yay!  Abound in getting-to-know-you conversation, Ginger walked me to my car.  Being a UCLA grad, she teased me for coming from USC, calling it a terrible terrible school, as she chuckled some more.  

I left feeling happy and renewed.  I've already ordered my next set of books for reading and am quite excited about this social journey that also feeds my literary geekdom.

If you'd like to join in on the discussion, up next for reading are:

I found both books on for 75 cents apiece.  After that, its up to me to bring a reading suggestion to the group.  Whatever it will be, I hope they like it.

Read on, Sisters.  Read on!

No comments:

Post a Comment