Monday, June 17, 2013

The End of Your Life Book Club

Life is good.  Book club, incredible food, beautiful and amazing friends and the beach (sigh). Does it get any better? Thanks Red for the portable feast, enjoyed from a cozy cabana overlooking the Pacific at sundown. I mean does it?! Manchego cheese canapes and homemade spicy mixed nuts, two kinds of quiche, one of which had melted leeks God bless, mixed baby greens and El Jefe's birthday cake! Deee-lishy.

The End of Your Life Book Club, by Will Schwalbe, scored a 6.6 Although not the feel good book of the summer, the poignancy of this story moved our group and gave rise to an emotional discussion.

As Logan's Run put it, TEOYLBC is at its core a story about a relationship and how it was affected by books. Just as reading opened up new areas in her life, the shared love of books transformed the last years the author spent with his mother while she battled pancreatic cancer. This book touched the hearts of our own little book club in many ways. Rarely in our ten-plus years together has there been such a personal and sad conversation. The trust and intimacy among us is truly special; we are lucky for this group of friends, our time together, our families, our intellect, our sense of humor. Herein lies the real value of the book. It was a reaffirmation that time spent with loved ones will never be something to regret. And it shows how there can be opportunities in all kinds of ways to give back to people who are meaningful to us. In this case, the author and his siblings took weeks out of their lives-- otherwise filled with jobs, kids, various other commitments that "busy" people have-- to stay with their mother during her chemotherapy treatments and while she was admitted to the hospital. What a big influence she must have had on her children, how much she must have given them over the years, to receive such love and respect in return. On a lighter note, it was fun to come across books that TEOYLBC had read that we have as well-- A Long Way Gone, Felicia's Journey and the Kite Runner to name a few. 

There were in fairness several points made about some of the shortcomings of TEOYLBC. Like other recent reads, this book was too long! Editor, heal thyself. The Highlander remarked that the story went on and on about the author and his mother talking about books, but left her wanting for an understanding of how books really connected them, and the feeling that the whole premise was somewhat contrived. A few people also complained that the mother's character was depicted as larger than life and as a result came across as implausible-- had she really devoted all her time and efforts to noble causes, did she really impart to her kids that many pearls of wisdom, was her attitude really always so even-keeled. And the author himself got criticized for being WASP-y and over-eager to drive home (likely out of a sense of guilt) the point that he was sooooo lucky that he never had to work. But at the end of the day, the book's flaws did not overshadow its message, which is one that our book club could stand to be reminded of every now and again.

Our next meeting is on July 10 at Logan's Run's house. The Maharani is on apps, Ms. K on dessert. We are reading A Thousand Pardons, by Jonathan Dee. Until next time, read early and often! And come with suggestions for the LOD;  methinks we need an August book. xoej 

Monday, June 3, 2013


Thanks to Ms. K for hosting our May BC.  We started out with a platter of burrata smothered in sun dried tomatoes with crostini for scooping, followed by Thyme Cafe's chicken stew with biscuits and a mixed green salad, with two kinds of cupcakes for dessert.  Lish!

"If the Lies Don't Kill You, the Truth Will."  

Whoa, now that's deep.  The self-published novel Wool, by Hugh Howey, came in just shy of a 7.  Surprisingly, an almost identical score to The Hunger Games, our last pop culture sci-fi sensation, but with different player haters. While Ms. K. excoriated Hunger Games, she bestowed upon this book a solid 7.5.  By contrast, El Jefe was a big time HG fan but found this book to be "meh."  After all, Wool isn't really such a unique piece.  As the Maharani pointed out, it sticks pretty close to sci-fi 101:  post-apocalyptic world, only vague understanding of why, population control, Big Brother suppressing the innate sexual urges of lusty young adults, to no avail. Talk about lish!  This stuff is gratuitous, entertaining and campy; just right for a Hollywood movie. What's not to like? How about 500+ pages, for starters. Wool turned out to be a veritable tome (and wait, there's more-- rumor has it a prequel is in the works).  Logan's Run just couldn't slog through it (truly a sign of not enough editing--where's censorship when we need it?) and Red thought the story was fine but way too drawn out. Other criticisms were that the book came across as overly masculine (int, since there was a female lead), the reveals were obvious, and it made the reader claustrophobic. This latter point, however, seems to be a compliment to the author, whose highly visual writing rendered life in the silos with such detail that it actually caused discomfort in the real world. And, let's give credit that despite all the pulp, there was food for discussion. Of course the most vexing question being the one that the characters in the story couldn't answer themselves:  Why do people clean? Was it out of a sense of euphoria from going outside and (falsely) discovering that the world was alive and full of color? Was it to try and clear the lenses so that others could view the same miracle? Or was it simply out of respect for the tradition, regardless of whether the cleaners knew or suspected the truth? After all, if the lies don't kill you, then, you know.

So, who would we cast?  Because the world in which El Jefe might be able to answer that question is indeed a fictional one, here's the opinion of someone else who knows better:

Rhona Mitra-- as Juliette

Liam Neeson-- as Holsten

Helen Mirren-- as Mayor Jahns

Paul Giamatti-- as Bernard

Andrew Garfield-- as Lukas

Our next meeting is Wednesday night, in Cabana 173 by the Sea. Bring a sweater. Can't wait.  xoej