Saturday, March 10, 2007


Thanks to Blondie for hosting a terrific BC on Wednesday! Great turnout, great food, GREAT discussion. We started out with canapés topped with shrimp and roasted baby tomatoes, followed by chicken tortilla soup and quesadillas with guacamole (definitely a BC cookbook entry!) and a salad, and all polished off by chocolate chip bread pudding with crème fraiche. Lish!

Better get right to the book. Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Infidel was one of the all time greats of BC discussion. The rating was 7.6, but that number belies how much this book was loved. El Jefe rated it a lowball 6.5, partly to counteract the Infidel frenzy: both Blondie and the Foxx came in strong with 10's, and La Mademoiselle almost went there too. People were absolutely floored by this woman's tale and touched and inspired by her courage. We literally talked about the book from the moment everyone arrived until dessert was finished. Although our discussion touched on many different aspects of the book, from Ayaan's relationship with her mother to the different factions of Islam throughout the world to the author's writing style, to a comparison with the Glass Castle, we really had the most to say about her internal struggle to accept Islam, culminating with her ultimate rejection of religion altogether. We talked about whether Islam was different from any other extremist religion: Is it any more violent than Catholicism has been throughout the ages? Is it any more oppressive than Hasidic Judaism to women? Is it any more abusive to children than fundamentalist Christianity, brainwashing them to speak in tongues? We probed Ayaan's turmoil in dealing with Islam, the way for so many years of her life and even into adulthood long after moving to Holland, she waffled between being a believer and an unbeliever and then--why the dramatic break into atheism? Why couldn't she become comfortable with a modified version of Islam that incorporated peaceful and rational concepts and had a place for individuality? That is what she had been trying to rationalize all along but at the last minute she abandoned the idea of a "modern" Islam in favor of atheism. Finally, we talked about the author's shocking position that Islam is inherently violent and oppressive--this thesis sounds so incredibly un-PC to all of us brought up to respect the differences in other cultures and never make sweeping assumptions about them.

The next book club will be on April 4 at Ms. K's house. The Doctor and the Foxx are bringing apps and dessert (I'm not sure which is which-please touch base with each other to decide). We are continuing our memoir streak with A Long Way Gone, by Ishmael Beah. (Not surprisingly, this comes up as a recommended book on Amazon for anyone who bought Infidel!)

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Glass Castle

Thanks to the Doctor for hosting a great BC last week. Since it had been five weeks since the last BC and only a few people attended that one, the evening felt like a reunion--almost! We missed you Ms. K! Congrats again on the arrival of E___. We can't wait to meet him! We started out with a yummy appetizer of goat cheese and roasted pine nuts nestled inside fresh basil leaves, followed by prosciutto lasagna and salad and, for dessert, cupcakes from Sprinkles. Not at all on my diet but very lishy!  El Jefe needs to be reminded why she is a lawyer and not the owner of an incredibly lucrative cupcake boutique.

What a hit Glass Castle was! The book scored an 8. In fact, save one 6 from the Highlander, no-one rated it lower than 8 (and the Highlander said she would have grade inflated if she had known the direction everyone else was going!).  This book seemed to touch a nerve in everyone.  Jeannette Walls' memoir was both astonishing and heart-wrenching, and the reactions by our group ranged from empathy to sympathy to anger to admiration.  Each one of us seemed to have taken away a vignette from the book that we will never forget, whether it was Jeannette fishing for her lunch in the school trash, the mother sneaking a chocolate bar under the covers, the father's giving away stars and planets as Christmas presents, or the family dog being chucked out of the car on the highway.  People had very strong reactions to the parents in this unusual family, and we had a good discussion about whether the societal expectations for the role of men and women swayed our judgment of which parent was better or worse.  We also talked about the author, marvelling at the irony of how she went from suffering abject poverty in Apalachia to reporting on glitz and glamour as a gossip colunmist.  How upset some of us would be if she turns out to be just another James Frey--"Well, I really never actually ate a lard and margerine sandwich, it was tuna fish!"  Overall, this book generated great discussion and was a surprise hit for The Club of Books.

The next meeting is scheduled for Wed., March 7.  We got so wrapped up in the LOD discussion that El Jefe forgot to figure out who is hosting or any food volunteers.  Seems that Blondie, La Madamoiselle, and Red were all on the horizon for hosting, so if any of you can do March just holla.  El Jefe is on apps and we need a dessert volunteer.

We are reading Infidel, a memoir by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.  Until next time, read early and often and don't forget your LOD suggestions! See you in March.. xo