Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Visit From the Goon Squad

You know it's a party when a spontaneous book club meeting breaks out!  Yes, at Red's baby shower today we realized we had a higher hit rate of book club members than on any other day in the month.  Hors d'oeuvres, main course, dessert--all check.  So, our track record remains unbroken:  nine years of The Club of Books, with not a meeting missed!

 Jennifer Egan's A Visit From the Goon Squad was a real dud, scoring a lackluster 5.0.  Everyone read it and everyone seemed to have come away with the same impression:  it was simply too much.  Trying too hard, too zeitgeisty, too post-modern (and too late to be trying to be post-modern), too bizarre, too musical, too masculine, and just kind of irritating.  This story started out with promise, and at first it was fun to piece together the connections between the characters as the book skips back and forth in time, like when you initially realized that Bennie Salazar's assistant Sasha is the kleptomaniac from the first chapter, and also the girl whose uncle goes to track her down after she runs away to Naples, Italy.  But it just didn't hang together tightly enough.  Some of the chapters--like the one about La Doll, who threw the most fabulous event in New York until her VIP guests got burned with hot wax (note to the party "no-no" file) and then tried to redeem herself by doing PR for a Central American dictator--were amusing but overly complicated and random.  The PowerPoint presentation felt played (if you've read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (and have we?) you've been there and done that), and the futuristic chapter at the end where they're all texting on cell phones was kind of lame.  So an "A" for effort and inventiveness, but this author tried to do too much and didn't quite nail it.

This picture seemed to go with both the Thanksgiving and the Baby Shower themes:

As everyone knows our Holiday Book Club is on December 14th, and we're reading Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes.  Read early and often and make sure your spouses do the same!!  xoej

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The 19th Wife

Thanks to Ms. K for hosting BC at her brand... new... house...!  It was so exciting to see your long project come to fruition, and everything looks incredible.  Congrats! 

It's been quite a while since El Jefe reported:  work, Barcelona, San Francisco, kids, life, the Fall Festival, New York--all of that waylaid El Jefe's best laid plans to write the recap.  But, as not one has been missed in 9 years, we're not starting now (in fact, El Jefe currently is writing this post from 15,000 feet above Albuquerque, New Mexico--now that's dedication!).  So, to the best of El Jefe's recollection, we started out with a cheese and charcuterie platter, garnished with some sort of figgy or pineappley jam that was decidedly delish with the goat cheese, followed by a hearty beef stew, perfect for fall, and a green salad, and... wait... why can't El Jefe remember what was for dessert?

We then moved on to a discussion of The 19th Wife.  It would be an utterly unrealistic strain on El Jefe's memory to try and recount this book's rating to the decimal point, but suffice it to say that it was fairly well received with no passionate votes for or against (after all, without La Mademoiselle, the chances for a 0 or 10 have gone way down).  So let's call it 6.5.  The 19th Wife was a fast and entertaining read, melding historic fiction and non-fiction about the life of Ann Eliza Young, the so-called 19th wife of Brigham Young (second prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) with a murder mystery set in current day fundamentalist LDS-land.  Probably the most interesting part of this book was the way that the author switched styles between the various chapters, convincingly imitating an early 19th century editorial from the San Francisco Chronicle or the text of a Wikipedia posting.  While some of our group wrote this book off as "Under the Banner of Heaven-lite," most found it to be sufficiently different and didn't mind a second opportunity to excoriate the LDS institution for first sanctioning, and later attempting to cover up, the deplorable treatment of women in the early days of the church.  Still difficult for El Jefe to understand how this new religion managed to get started within relatively recent history and people actually went for it.  It's one thing to pass down the stories of Moses parting the Red Sea from generation to generation as part of a tradition stretching back more than 2,000 years.  It's another for a regular guy from Vermont to come along in 1830 and claim that he had discovered golden tablets inscribed with the divine truth (but that no one else could see).  Int, very int.

Ann Eliza Young

Sacred Underwear

Our November meeting is this Sunday, November 13th at Red's house in the 'Dena.  Note the new Sunday start time:  5.30.  The Highlander is on dessert, and please volunteer if you're able to bring apps.  The book we will be discussing is A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer, Egan, which, ahem, hopefully everyone has already finished by now or is close to it.

We also have our December book!  We will be reading Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes, which is a holiday-friendly 176 pages, and accordingly finishable by even the most slacker husbands.  Sense of an Ending just won the 2011 Man Booker prize, so it should be a good one.  Date for holiday BC to follow.  xoej