by Valerie Nusbaum
I’m an avid reader. I’ve always loved books, and my appetite for the written word could only be described as voracious. My mother taught me basic reading well before I started first grade, and I adored getting lost in the stories of far-away lands and thrilling adventures. I’m that eccentric person who loves libraries, and I can happily spend hours in a bookstore making my selections.
Do today’s kids even read books, I wonder? I remember that my seventh-grade English teacher called a parent/teacher conference with my folks because I did my book report on Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. While that book may have been a bit racy for a seventh-grader (remember this was back in the 1970s), I was fortunate to have parents who didn’t censor me and who encouraged me to broaden my horizons. We did have a talk about what was acceptable for public consumption, though.
It would seem, then, that I’d be someone who’d enjoy being part of a book club. That thinking is a bit flawed because I don’t tend to like the types of books that most clubs assign. My preference is a good mystery, one that I can’t put down until the last page when the killer is revealed. I love matching wits with the fictional detectives, and I’m excited to find out if I’m correct about the solution. Book club selections seem to me to be kind of high-brow, and a tad hoity-toity for the most part. It appears that some selections are chosen not so much for enjoyment as for impressing others with the members’ understanding of all the subtle nuances and representations, the hidden meanings, symbolism, and imagery. I read for fun and to escape from my problems.
I’ll read a biography if I’m interested in the subject or the subject’s career or contribution. A good trash wallow/beach read isn’t out of the question either. Just don’t give me a romance novel and expect me to get past page one’s ripped bodice or heaving bosom.
Given my decidedly low-brow taste in literature, I’ve stayed away from the organized book clubs, and consequently, have never had anyone with whom to discuss my book choices. I was thinking these thoughts one day when I looked across the room and saw Randy reading a book of his own. An idea hit me. We could form our own book club. I presented my proposition to him: We’d each read an agreed-upon mystery novel, and then we’d discuss said novel over his favorite meal. We decided that I would choose all of our books. Randy enjoys mysteries, but I don’t want to read books about submarines, airplanes, or wars.
Our first book club selection was James Patterson’s Murder House. The book had been sitting on my “to be read” shelf for a couple of years, and I was happy to get it out and dust it off. It is well over 400 pages long, but Patterson writes short chapters and the spacing is wide, so he’s usually a quick read. Even so, it took me five or six days to finish the book since the bulk of my reading is done in the bathroom. I mentally noted some questions about the plot, and then I passed the book on to Randy for his turn at reading the material.
Poor Randy was knee-deep in a kitchen remodel project, so he didn’t get around to reading the book right away. Nearly three weeks had passed when he handed Murder House back to me and said he was ready to meet and talk about the book, and that he’d like a pizza steak sub and fries to go with it. At that point, I couldn’t remember my questions or even the names of the main characters because I’d read a couple of other books after the Patterson novel.
Our book discussion went something like this:
Valerie: “I can’t remember the name of the half-brother of the main character, but I can’t figure out why the killer (can’t remember his name either) didn’t just go ahead and kill him instead of letting him hang around all those years.”
Randy: “His name started with an ‘A,’ and the killer’s name was Justin, I think.”
Valerie: “Okay, right, but if Aiden (that’s his name!) knew all along that Justin was the killer, and Justin knew he knew, then why didn’t Justin just kill him and get rid of the body?”
Randy: “Maybe Justin wanted Aiden around for a fall guy. But what about the severed finger? Why was it so well-preserved when the bodies were decomposed? That’s a LOT of fries.”
Valerie: “Pass the ketchup, please. I imagine Justin saved the finger as a trophy and kept it in formaldehyde or something.”
It went on like this for a while longer, and I think I can speak for Randy as well as myself when I say that we really don’t retain a lot of what we read. We knew going into this experiment that we tend to see things very differently and reading the same book only confirmed that. Will our book club meet again? Maybe. The subs were really good.
Speaking of mysteries, Randy received a lovely vintage Valentine from someone called Mildred Zerbe. My guess is that poor Mildred hasn’t been with us for many years. It was a lovely gesture and a fun thing for us, and we both appreciate your thoughtfulness.