I met with my book club tonight. Actually, I have two book clubs, which is obscene, really, because Who Has The Time? But that’s another posting.
Tonight I met with Vlaardinger Boeks (and yes, ladies, I added the extra “a,” because that makes it even more funny), the book club I have been part of for…. seven years? I can’t remember, but I know we began meeting after my eldest son was born, and I know we weren’t our present group right away, but we have been ourselves for a Long Time, and I think that when you can’t remember when something began, that’s Saying Something.
In fact, I can’t imagine my life without Vlaardinger Boeks, even though the regularity of our meetings has been, of late, somewhat spotty. No, the three women who are the other members of V.B. are Invaluably Precious, and that is Saying Something, too.
We read great books. But I can’t just now think of what they are. We’ve also read some bad ones, but I don’t remember those either. Oh, one of the best discussions we’ve ever had (and I think just recently that Beth agreed with me on this one) was about Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer. It was, for me, one of those books that just might be great while you’re reading it, but you’re not really sure. And then we got together and discussed and– wouldn’t you know?– Percy’s genius just sort of unfolded itself in the center of the room, on the very coffee table, I think, and Wow! What a book! It is brilliant in its development and construction, and I realized then that I Love That Book.
One thing I love about Vlaardinger Boeks is that they let me read. Aloud. And I do it a lot. Because– I ask you?– what good is a book discussion if you can’t read aloud the passages you like, the passages that support the point you are trying to make, or the passages that, really, embarrass you and Should, by all rights, embarrass the writer? These need to be read aloud, and reflected upon, and noted. I read to them a lot, and they pretend to like it, and that means Something to me.
Last spring we took a trip– all four of us– to Grand Rapids, Michigan, of all places, and that’s Really Far Away. It is, if I remember correctly (help me out here, Beth) 17 hours away. And we did it in a mini-van. And none of us quarrelled. About anything. Including the music. And that’s Saying Something. And they let me read to them from a book that we weren’t reading for book club, and that was from Twain’s wonderful Huck Finn. And they let me read to them even as I was gasping for air because I was laughing so hard. They couldn’t even understand what I was saying most of the time, but they let me read anyway.
So we went to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to the beautiful campus of Calvin College for the Festival of Faith and Writing. We stayed with Beth’s in-laws, the gracious Roger and Ruth, and had a wonderful time. And we reveled in all the Dutch names everywhere, names that everyone else seemed accustomed to and not the least bit alarmed by. Names like Vanderquock and Vanderplugh and words ending in “sma.” And then Roger gave us our book club name, because we needed a Dutch name, and we spell it in the Dutch fashion, and we think we are funny. We are.
Yes, tonight I met with Vlaardinger Boeks to discuss Memoirs of a Geisha. It was a good discussion even though (and I’m not naming names) one of us hadn’t finished reading the book. We discussed sexuality and its inherent -or not- value, whether its value is culturally specific, or gender specific, or just something valuable. We talked about Japanese culture and art, about my childhood there (was I two? or was I six? This required clarification. The answer is six), and my experiences, and the generous natures of our friends in Japan. Then we talked about memory and how it is made, and how it is maintained, and why we remember. And then the conversation went on to other things, as it always does, things Completely Unrelated to the book at hand, but Very Related to our own lives and to how we know, and love, and help one another.
I thought I would leave at 9:30. I think it was almost 11, if not after, when we finally went out the door. And then I stood in the street and talked with Beth for another half hour. She had brought me hydrangea from her garden, a great big bouquet of blue hydrangea, and we stood there in the street and talked over the nodding heads of the hydrangea, and admired the full moon.