Monday, May 23, 2011

Father of the Rain

Thanks to the Doctor for hosting another great BC evening!  Almost a full house: we only were missing the Highlander, who was busy with last minute wedding preparations.  We started off with a brie tasting (El Jefe’s favorite actually being the domestic triple-crème from New England—in keeping with the theme of the book!) and then made a run for the border for a variety of delicious Argentine empanadas with chimichurri sauce accompanied by a mache salad, with individual-sized cups of Hagen Daaz ice cream in assorted flavors for dessert.  Lish!

On to Lily King’s Father of the Rain, which scored an average of 6 on a scale of 1 to 10.  Apparently all of us West Coasters (plus La Mademoiselle) could not muster up a whole lot of sympathy for these Boston preppies and their high-class problems.  There was at least one person in our group who found each of the characters annoying:  Daley, the narrator, for being one-dimensional and weak;  Jonathan, the black boyfriend, for being a cliché with his dreadlocks and for abandoning Daley on her dad’s porch;  and, of course, Gardiner, Daley’s father, for his crass, drunken antics and home-wrecking behavior.  But on the flip side, there also were compelling elements to the characters and to the story as a whole.  For one thing, it had some interesting resonance with March's book, Love or Something Like It, since both novels involved the dramatic and lasting impact that a father can have on a daughter’s life—sometimes for the worse rather than the better.  Also, there were some humorous and endearing aspects to Gardiner’s personality, for example, his inside jokes (or, at least, the only mildly raunchy ones) and the fatherly rituals that Daley and her brother loved when they were younger, or when he pulled outrageous gags such as streaking naked through his wife’s pool party in front of the "liberal" friends she was trying to impress.  Thus some of us found ourselves really rooting for Gardiner as he tried to pull his life back together through AA.  But at the end of the day, whatever poignant and convincing insights this book might have provided were drowned out in the dated corniness of the last scene:  Gardiner, on his death bed, surrounded by his (now) bi-racial family as they discuss the 2008 Democratic primary run-off between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, with Daley throwing her vote behind Obama and Jonathan behind Clinton.  Really?  Really?

And just because it's such an incredibly great look... Preppies... then, and now.

Preppy on campus, circa 1980

And now

Preppy with a sweet ride, circa 1980

And now
Preppy tennis, circa 1980

And now... lish!

We decided to put a bit of space between heavy father-daughter novels and postpone American Pastoral until July.  Our June book, instead, is The Paris Wife by Paula McLane, a fictional historic account of Hemmingway and his wife in Paris.  We are meeting on our regularly-scheduled first Wednesday of the month at the Foxx’s house. The Highlander is on apps and Ms. K. is on dessert!

Until next time, xoej

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Funny Boy

This BC recap is a pure, selfless act of dedication and love, as El Jefe prepares to torture herself by recounting our usual BC feast at the end of Day One of a three-day juice cleanse.  Salivation ensues, remembering the hot, pan-crisped shrimp and veggie goyza with a ponzu dipping sauce, followed by creamy tomato bisque, filo pizza with caramelized onions, chevre, and kalamata olives, and a green salad with a shallot-white balsamic vinagarette, topped off by decadent cheesecake (much better than cinnamon cashew juice, which is what El Jefe had for dessert).  Best of all, the entree was brought to us via special delivery from Sun Valley.  That's right!  A full house, for the first time in, well ages!  It was great to have everyone together again, and a sad, sad day for the scores of BC hopefuls just waiting for a spot to open up.

Funny Boy was relatively low scoring, only 5.4 on average.  However, it always happens that the books with the lukewarm ratings actually seem to generate much enthusism in our discussion--and this was no exception.  Funny Boy was a combination of many things you wouldn't necessarily expect to find in the same book:  Sri Lanka, homosexuality, Canada, civil war, boarding school.  But, the weaving together of these elements created a novel that, if not a quick read, certainly was an interesting and informative one.  The story of the book's young protagonist, Arjun, was fictional, yet set against a social and political backdrop that was very real:  the tensions and bloody violence between Sri Lanka's Buddhist Sinhalese majority and its Hindu Tamil minority.  It was a sad and fascinating view into the background of a decades-long civil war that ended just recently with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in 2009, as anyone who listens to NPR on a regular basis heard.  It also was almost unimaginable to think of having to go to school in an environment such as Arjun's where the headmaster inflicts corporal punishment and uses the students as pawns in his political agenda.  Some in our group also were touched by the author's kind and sympathetic portrayal of how Arjun discovered his sexuality and struggled to deal with it in a country that was not at all tolerant of gay people.  The shortcomings of the book were that the writer did not seem to mind dropping threads of the story at a moment's notice (for example, Arjun's mother's childhood lover who was assassinated by the Tamil Tigers, Princess Fatty, and Arjun's family's flight to seek refuge in Canada), which was frustrating.  Also, many of the characters, including most members of Arjun's family, were not likeable and were a turn-off to read about.  Overall, the main takeaway of this book is that we are so fortunate to live in the time and place that we do.  One of the many, many great things about book club (too many to count!) is that every so often we read read a book that reminds us of that.

2009 protest outside 10 Downing Street urging Tony Blair to stop support of the Tamil Tigers.

Tamil Tiger suicide bomber

Our next meeting also is shaping up to have perfect attendance!  We are meeting at the Doctor's house on May 11.  El Jefe is on dessert and not sure about apps--email if you can pitch in.  Until next week...  xoej