Wor(l)dly Wise

February 2019 @ Katie’s House with everyone but Sue and Karen C. (Kitty>>hiatus)
Our pick-from-a-hat selection was A Gentleman in Moscow:  A Novel by Amor Towles

Gentleman in Moscow cover


Shelley had put the name in the hat. Many others intended to read it anyway, so  – Yay.

She’s heard/seen good reviews, knew his other book was quite good, yada, yada, yada.

We learned some new words and phrases and other things while reading and discussing. Here’s a quick review of the newest terms in the Bootleg lexicon (in no particular order):


triumvirate – 1. vodka, caviar, & borscht (up there as one of the most on-point Bootleg menus ever!); 2. the true rulers of the Metropol & perhaps Moscow (def. ‘white shadow’ Moscow), our favorite characters in many ways; 3. no openings for any RI-based power trios (sorry, Liz); 4. Insert other samples of household or national governance foibles here (we skipped school-itics, pool-itics, and K-town altogether) – at your own risk.

asymptotically – 1. describing the bell-curve (or mantel clock) shape; 2. when plotting the IQ of Team Metropol, most would be plotted quite high and narrowly to the middle of this curve; 3. ditto for the research, literary acumen, and deft understatements to convey personal drama and sweeping historical change as done by Amor Towles; 4. also see geometry (not geography)

understatement – 1. probably should be Alexander Rostov’s middle name; 2. word efficiency that one would think could do great disservice to the rise of Stalin, suicidal actions, tests of will on all scale, loyalty, massive social change, dark undercurrents, blatant injustice, wrenching losses, trust… but in this case, one would be wrong; 3. nice contrast with blurts and bombast of party officials as well as Misha’s unparalleled passion for proletariat patriotism, poetry and pacing.

denizen – 1. citizen/comrade; 2. Former Person; resident of the shadow Metropol…thanks to Nina, risk-taking staff, and a whole lotta gold Catherines in the desk legs; Bootleg member who listens, cares, laughs, holds high standards (yes, in this case we’re looking at you…fondly, Viviane), & knows just when to fill in with the drinks, apps, dessert, salads, bread or other – month after month and year after year.

calm – 1. how one must appear after racing up the back stairs to be seated and reading in anticipation of another’s arrival; 2. the reader’s attitude in order to finish and enjoy this very long, very Russian tome; 3. Rose’s get-to-sleep story, sound, and get-out-of-my-bedroom, Matthew McConaughey app

zut! – 1. exclamation upon losing a round of the very-engaging and endearing game of threes between Alexander and Sophia (we loved this reveal of so many of their character traits & the cultural context); 2. what one could say within earshot of family members without being overtly offensive so they may – or may not – know they’ve been annoying

borscht – 1. peasant food (sorry, Alexander); 2. sentence heard from first-time borscht maker (Katie):  I did not think my hands would return to a normal color; 3. sentence heard from first-time borscht eater & full-time vegetable hater (Liz):  It’s borscht and I really like it! [Note:  this wasn’t even the meat-version, but the veg-only version!]; 4. sentence heard from other first-time eater (Katie’s daughter): It’s weird. But it was…good.

capricious – 1. given to sudden and unaccountable swings in mood or behavior; 2. synonym:  Russia  (esp. in this time period); 3. some of the plot twists/turns – at times quite slow for many of us (but it’s a Russian novel, people…); 4. some of the suspension of disbelief moments (e.g. the freedom/power of the Triumvirate, that Sophia was allowed to stay, that the escape worked so well, that Osip was able to be in power for so long…so, his apparent nastiness outside of the Metropol didn’t equate with sudden rush to save Sophia with best surgeons, etc.

willowy – 1. slyly-used character marker for Anna because:  a. snobby & strident is how we meet her, b. it also marks the most poignant scenes & shared character development for Anna and Alexander, c. the ending

The Bishop – 1. the perfect imperfect foil, 2. personified USSR’s ugly elements

Sasha, Misha, Anna… – 1. there are only about 7 names in Russian novels; 2. Every Man (well done, Towles…again)

friends overestimate – never underestimate – their friends’ capabilities – 1. one example of many lovely descriptions of truth; 2. and a nod to Montaigne and ‘how to live-isms’ applied as a type of Russian philosophy; 3. aristocratic behavior isn’t all bad

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” – 1. Leo Tolstoy in Anna Karenina; 2. except… Alexander created a unique happiness with a unique family AND he grew to appreciate he was the luckiest man in Moscow; 3. antonym/stark contrast to Misha & Katerina and Nina with her husband in Siberia (unique or at least distinct forms of unhappy misery)

Next Meeting:  March 26th, 7:15 @ Liz’s house.

Next Book:  A Natural History of Dragons:  A Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan (Katie’s pick)


American Dreams

January 2019 – Karen S’s cozy Storm Retreat (yes, yet another winter hit on the eve of her hosting date… this time ‘the Polar Vortex’ sent ice, a bit of snow, and single-digit temps) + Marie, Rose, Liz, Shelley, Yours Truly, and…

… New American Citizen (as of 1/23/19) & the finally-anointed Gringa:  Viviane!

Gringas 2019

Champagne, a little gift, a gorgeous cake, and a lovely recap of her prep and swearing-in experiences made for some thoughtful and proud moments. Here’s the gist:
Proud to Be an American (Lee Greenwood version)
Proud to Be an American (Beyoncé version)
And, yes, the links intentionally do reflect that while we Bootleggers all are proud,
there is range and variation to the theme.

Shining Moment of Team Thesaurus-ism:  abjure means renounce, not abhor (phew).

Our other Guest of Honor:  Ellen Prentiss Campbell, author of the Karen S’s January pick, bowl w gold seams campbellThe Bowl with Gold Seams. Karen picked it for its deft treatment of a US-based perspective on the oft-addressed WWII theme, similar in tone to an earlier & popular Bootleg read, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Also, she was able via her ‘literati mom’ to invite Ellen to our meeting.


– we thoroughly enjoyed answers/examples for how story content was based on a lot of research of primary sources, contemporary accounts, and archived location details

– we liked the contrast of documentary-bro’s strong advice to interview directly vs. Ellen’s priority on poetic license and preference to maintain her (other) career-long professional standard of maintaining confidentiality regarding personal life stories

– People magazine moments:  getting the inside scoop on some characters e.g. one real-life counterpart was ‘really nasty,’ while another apparently sprang from 2 real-life fathers; yet most all were NOT based on actual people

-parsing out the truth about Bedford, PA was similarly engaging:  yes, there was a prison like that; no, it’s not likely Bedford was a gold-star town; yes, the hotel still exists (newly revitalized)

– The Universe is Cool moment:  much of the setting, tone, and even some actual character and/or plot details have been confirmed post-publication via various ironies or coincidences… including a now long-standing connection with a person who was at Bedford Springs during the time of this novel

– story structure:  the story frame w/prologue of Hazel as headmistress was always intended, first as a device Ellen likes and perhaps later as a way to link the school setting and the hotel setting (as stalwart places facing specific difficulties with no clearly correct solution); some liked that framing device, some stuck with their ‘aversion’ to prologues habit & skipped it, some found knowing Hazel’s future a bit distracting

– we all enjoyed the clear intensity of the novel’s more dramatic scenes; well balanced with explaining the perhaps quieter or undergirding nuances of the daily interactions of the townie vs. outside authority vs. interned people; all this and on the background of doing right/being compassionate/being human

– the familiar geography – schools, roads, DC stuff… fun to recognize and nice that it was so right

– at least one Bootlegger wanted more physical description of Hazel… interesting that Ellen noted she spent so much time speaking/writing as her that apparently ‘self-description’ seemed… immaterial

– we found some of Hazel’s personal relationship behaviors discordant with her Quaker upbringing and professional goals:  maybe her extra-marital affairs spoke to carrying some ‘foxhole behavior’ (past affair) into an ongoing PTSD-like inability to really connect, but it still struck most of us as not ideal (both for her and maybe for us as readers)

– some expected the suicide, others not so much (for the record, it was an intended plot element from early stages)

– some of us felt that Hazel’s decision at the school (accepting the resignation) was a win-win since the school stayed safe while nobody was mud-dragged… others felt it may have been ‘safe’ but it was not any kind of win since every student, staff member, and probably family would know that the difficult student/father had won after all

– some discussion of the creative process:  Ellen’s specifically and other peoples’ or in other media (e.g. Viviane’s painting)

– There was more, but this gets the gist.

Dinner was delish! Karen S. concocted a hearty, creamy miso & veggie soup by merging two recipes. And having a son with wicked-fast chopping skills. Appetizers and sides made for happy tummies. The petite chocolate cake (that deconstructed into ginormous slices) was just as good.

February’s book – picked from a hat – is A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.

Katie is hosting; date TBA.



A Light Touch for Heavy Fare

November 2018 @ China Gourmet Restaurant – missing Karen C (last-minute Mom work), Sue (Florida), & Kitty (still on leave).

We blew into the restaurant in shifts (super-blustery day), some enjoying the available hot tea & others getting icier libations. It took a moment, but the music volume was properly dropped & the glass doors to our room were closed. We simply must have the proper environs, after all. A note about the music – the very unique (read:  strange) mix that has been played in years past has been jettisoned for plain old Christmas carols. No dis to carols, but the quirky audio mix was missed by some.


  • Thanksgiving recaps – who fed whom
  • Thanksgiving drama – short version:  NYC rent makes people crazy; medium version:  sisters don’t always make the best roommates since the older pulls rank; moral of the story:  do not rent out an apartment from underneath your rent-paying roommate (& expect that everyone will be fine with it)
  • anyone reading good books? yes, but nobody had major recommendations
  • calm down, everyone – it’s not until the JANUARY meeting that you must bring your Pot Luck Book Pick title for the next selection
  • trip down Memory Lane for early days of Bootleg, including stories of member (or bossy guest) extreme rudeness and related invitations to leave (consider yourself warned)
  • let’s be clear:  a certain service provider on a certain lane is most certainly not doing anything other than providing top-notch service (in varying industries) and anyone thinking said service provider is providing access to anything related to recreational pharmaceuticals would be well-served to think otherwise immediately
  • our typical brag (or worry)-about-your-kids (or grandkids) segment was mostly replaced by selecting items from the menu; it took a while, but we all ate good stuff

THE BOOK:  Rose picked The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah because it was on her list. Make that… List. It was recommended, it seemed good. The Nightingale


  • was anyone surprised by who survived? Not really… Some read and looked for clues all along, others saw the logical conclusion well in advance of the conclusion.
  • several variations of:  “Oh, man…do I want to read another WWII book? Nope.” and then…”Oh, it’s the French story – this insight could be new/good/super-worthwhile.”
  • VERY simple (almost middle grade) structure and theme development.
    • Wild Sister: Meek Sister (both beautiful! which one is our heroine?!? :: Rebel French : Lame French
    • Clearly Good Nazi (he’s handsome! never mind the oxymoron) / Bad Nazi (he’s ugly, he’s fertile)
  • Yet, the language, word count, and esp. treatment of several topics is clearly for the adult reader.
  • So:  K Hannah did a ton of research and wrote in rather trope-heavy ways in order to launch a hefty theme at the ‘casual, chick-lit, beach-read’ audience
  • reminded us of the Jody Picoult of history (as opposed to bio-med law).
  • Some of us wanted more actual history of the French beyond these two sisters and their small networks. No arguments there (but that’s a different audience)
    • e.g. Rose’s hubby would read that version of the book after he finishes Oppenheim’s biography
  • Point:  just keep publishing highly-readable WWII based books because We Can Never Forget.
  • Distinct Contrast:  at least one of us thought the concentration camp scenes were horrible while at least one other thought the scenes were ‘mild’ (as compared to other books not as compared to normal human standards)
  • Marie shared details about the woman who was the real woman who inspired this book, a Belgian countess named Andree de Jongh. Her amazing work in WWII was only a stop-gap of sorts. After WWII she fulfilled her dream of helping lepers in Africa (as a nurse) until retiring to Brussels when older.
  • Was it ‘okay’ that Nightingale got to see her True Love one more time & just in time before expiring? Pretty much. It completed her character (from abandoned to well-met) and it served the intended reader.
  • Jumping to modern era ‘every 200 pages or so’ was a bit jarring (as opposed to written as smooth interludes)
  • Of course the son turned out to be Perfect (angels singing). We didn’t mind that too much, though.
  • How did Weak Sister become so Stone Cold Solid that she never cracked and told family/son any truth (or had destructive behavior to indicate she had issues)?
  • Some of us were impressed by the sisters’ father’s heroics while others saw it a bit more as a convenient plot-turning ploy. It was both. Related point:  his self-sacrifice put the Nightingale in the camps so he didn’t do her any ‘practical’ favors, but the effort mattered b/c it was meaningful to him, the family, and the ‘do right’ message of the story.

The Dessert Rule – a case study

  1. The previous month’s host always brings dessert to the successive meeting. Historically, the frozen turtle pie from Safeway was the default easiest no-brainer for the person who’d sweated out hosting the month before. Complicating it by creating bananas Foster or similar is the dessert-bringers prerogative.
  2. Since starting November meetings at China Gourmet, the rule has stood. Dessert has been brought in from outside b/c fortune cookies are pretty unfortunate, actually.
  3. Nobody updated newbie Rose on the Dessert Rule. Some of us intentionally (not to trip up Rose but b/c of Thanksgiving Dessert Overload Syndrome).
  4. We all survived.

Happy Outcome 1:  Fans of fortune cookies got to revel in full enjoyment of said cookies. Even though at least 6 of our 8 fortunes were 1,000% lame-o. What has happened in the fortune writing industry?

Happy Outcome 2:  There will be no Dessert Bringer Flurry for the January meeting. It’s Rose’s job. How easy is that?

Next Meeting:  Karen S’s house AND Karen S’s book (because she’s inviting the author; she’s fancy like that).

January 24th-ish (don’t quote me) @ 7-ish (ditto)

Title (probably is):  The Bowl with Gold Seams by Ellen Prentiss Campbell



With Friends Like These…

October 2018  Meeting with Rose in her Cozy Home* plus Mary, Marie, Karen S., Liz, Yours Truly, Shelley, & Sue…also, Leo (big, sweet, lug-of-a-dog). Viviane & Karen C were semi-awol; Kitty is on leave.                                          *New location – a delight!

General Chatter:

  • Karen S. is having a GIRL!!!! Well, a girl grandchild. In her gene pool (all eddies) this is rarer than the Hope Diamond x winning MegaMillions x air on Mars x the combined height in millimeters of ALL her boys. March Madness will take on a new meaning in 2019 (due date).
  • Shelley is a cr@ck dealer. Her dealers is onion-creamy and served on toast rounds. And made from 110% legal everything. But still… You. Are. Warned. She’s also getting a (practically) brand new bathroom thanks to an odd leak and a contractor who was not the least impressed or swayed by Ron’s plan to ‘keep everything’ and ‘just tile over stuff.’ Nicely done, Shel.
  • Sue came back for her Not Actually Happening Retirement Not Actually a Party (more like ‘organized, extended Happy Hours). Sadly, since it was left to Former Boss to organize (oh, the strain of sending an email!!!), it never got on the books. Silver lining 1:  we got to see her. Silver lining 2:  she heads back to FL 1 day early.
  • Liz accomplished 3 miles (nice progress, Hip Lady!) of a 4-mile hike at Black Hills Regional Park. Her co-hikers just left her at mile 3. No…they drove through the woods to get her. Actually, it was 2 miles in/out on a drivable path. So, EZ pick up.
  • Rose is DONE buying Christmas gifts – she’s buying the family a trip, instead. Parameters & options well-sifted, we heartily endorsed Vegas, baby!
  • Mary’s working too much. This is not news – not even close. However, her reasons (colleague needs) are totally legit. We’re just glad she had time to join us for a while.
  • Marie’s Margaret has a job in NYC publishing. The 2 principles (it’s a new company) have legit CVs, but the work flow is odd. Take lunch, Margaret!
  • My Katelyn is back home and up to her eyeballs as Athletic Trainer at University of Maryland – Cross Country, Track & Field. She’s insulated from the May tragedy. We’re happy she’s home (socking away all that rent & grocery money!).

THE BOOK:  Sue picked Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russonobodys fool

  1. She’d gotten Everybody’s Fool a while back (at a Russo event) and needed to read our pick since it precedes the book that’d been on her shelf for so long.
  2. She liked Empire Falls (an earlier Bootleg read, btw) and other Russo titles.

Our Comments:

  • Most everyone loved it.
  • It’s real, it’s familiar. It’s ‘all boy’ and ‘men are like that.’ It’s funny. It’s how ‘they’ talk to each other.
  • Small town life is so insular & over-lapping. This is well-depicted.
  • Some favorite characters include Wirf (his napkin notes), the diner staff (esp. ‘the one black man in town’), Beryl Peoples (a voice of reason…except when not hearing voices), and Sully (so many who hate him also love him).
  • Karen S. did find (and others agreed) that there were many scenes of lengthy description. A lot of telling (not enough showing/doing) for long spurts.
  • Katie was the lone dissenter. Not unfamiliar people. But not funny. Writing skill quite good overall. BIG ISSUE:  If you’re going to write about what’s hard, then why must you squash every avenue to (or even small glimmer of) hope? Most all treatment of Rub and young girl – unacceptable. And I’ll stop here.
    • Post meeting recollection: one funny part is the snow blower thievery.


NEXT MEETING:  China Gourmet @ 7 p.m. date TBA

Rose’s Book Pick:  The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah


A Long, Strange Trip

September 2018 at Sue’s Shangri-La with Rose, Shelley, and Marie
elsewhere: Liz (b’day), Katie (beach work), Mary (wedding), Karen S. (work work)
sabbatical:  Kitty                         attendance/activity tba: 
Karen C. 

Thanks, Guest Blogger, Shelley!

Rose, Marie and I hunkered down for the long road trip.
Rose was the co-pilot and navigator.  Looking at the directions, “Wait, this is way past Fredrick. Sue said she lives in Fredrick.”

Sue looked fit and fab with her Florida tan and her pickle ball physique!

Lots of appetizers(Sue’s homemade salsa, yum!), Sue made a great pasta dish and Marie filled in as salad queen.

Margaret got a writing job! She’s been working in a restaurant and really enjoyed it but is happy to have a real job (as they say in the biz).

Kitchen Confidential

Shelley’s Pick:  Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Rose and I read the book, Marie read half of the book and then a patient wanted it. Sue listened on tape.

We all liked the book and writing style.
I gave some background on Anthony Bourdain and we all decided the guy didn’t need much sleep.

Those who hadn’t read the afterword were glad to hear that the author writes that many of the practices in the book no longer happen these days.

I related some restaurant stories from my experiences and Ron’s.

An eerie discussion about ghosts seemed apropos in the very dark back yard.

Sue’s deck was lovely with candles,  Tiki torches and a beautiful sunset view through the trees.
Alas, no hot tubing but a very fun evening.

Next Book:  Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo

Pick a Side…thoughtfully

August 2018 Shelley’s House with Marie, Mary, Karen C,. Viviane, Rose & Yours Truly
Liz–35th anniversary in Canada, Kitty & Karen S. work, Sue in FL


  • Shelley’s new kitchen is gorgeous (and so much more space with the just-right updates). New DR is cool-cozy, too! Made the always-delish food even better & it’s like we were eating in a fancy foodie magazine. Well, even better…since Shelley updated (renovated?) Martha’s cold soup recipe, too. Just don’t say the word ‘corn’ to Shelley this month.
  • Speaking of food… the raspberries added to beverages were beyond perfect (thx, Marie) and the blueberry buckle/crumble (ack! which one is it, Karen?) was over-the-top yummy
  • Karen C & family are recent drag racing converts. The real deal (not some over-priced, wimpy county fair version, either).
  • Mary’s son has moved/upgraded his NYC apartment. However, his kitchen is the 10-million percent opposite of Shelley’s. Otherwise, actual living space & a new 3rd roomie make it all work great.
  • Speaking of NYC & kids, 2 of Viviane’s daughters are surviving each other as roommates (the padlocked closet may or may not help). Also, Airbnb-ing their place when out of town lessens the money issues. Silly-but-smart girls.
  • Katie’s Katelyn has a new job:  head athletic trainer for track & field at U of Md. Effective Sept. 17 (sorry, Yale…she’s gotta go)
  • Marie moved 3,000 pounds of rock as a major step in her overall landscaping design (where ‘design’ means undo doggie damage and get something, anything green to grow…this is a common design theme for many of us)
  • Rose has her hands full. Her dad recently passed and helping her mom get oriented (and hopefully) moved is all quite a challenge. It was nice to hear about her childhood home and community, though.

Segue – Somebody said the word ‘America’ for some reason and Shelley quickly called ‘segue to the book!’

THE BOOK:  The Quiet American by Graham Greene

Karen C. picked it because she’d read it long ago and liked it (and she Quiet Americanpicks classics/reading list titles).

  • She did not like it as much as she recalls liking it ‘back then,’ but isn’t quite sure why. This is not an uncommon thing with re-reading after many years.
  • Some of us liked/didn’t mind Fowler, others did not like him much at all. The ones who were more pro-Fowler did not have distinct reasons other than he introduced keen observations on the situations at hand. The anti-Fowler set disliked how it was a point of pride for him to have no set values/standards; he was an overly-droll, snobby coward with a major opium problem.
  •  All were taken by Greene’s awareness of just how complicated Vietnam already was in 1955.
  • Greene’s great economy with words impressed us. So much conveyed in such crisp, tidy phrasing.
  • Pyle was considered the true bad guy by many. Others saw him as the ‘know enough to be very dangerous’ bumbling fool.
  • We considered Phuong to be quite resilient and liked her subtle autonomy (well, except from her older sister). Phuong seemed to represent the most logical (while still not ideal) way to manage horrible circumstances. She was an interesting combo of determination, subservience, and suspected subversive activity. A survivor who revealed little of her true self.
  • The French lived up to all the bad stereotypes about them. The inspector was, we admitted, quite clever & insightful.
  • Some of us were very surprised by the ending and Fowler’s role. Others not so much. Either way, it was quite cynical of Greene (even disturbingly so) that Fowler finally took a stand and ended up more miserable than ever (but it was b/c he finally had a conscience, perhaps).

NEXT BOOK:  Shelley’s pick, Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

NEXT MEETING:  Road trip! Sue’s house. Date tbd.


Grow Where You’re Planted

Bootleg July 2018:  Guest Post by Liz and Mary

July: hosted by Karen Castle and her fabulous screened porch (new furniture!)

 We only had 5 attend the meeting (Liz, Mary, Marie and Shelley) and only 3 had finished the book, so the discussion was limited. MIA:  Kitty, Karen S (tennis), Sue (Alaska), Viviane (DC dinner), Katie (honoring her Dad), Rose (caring for her Dad).

Chit chat: We toasted to Robert’s save return from deployment. He and his girlfriend are now vacationing in Germany. Catherine has a new job with Gubhub, Tyler and his fiancé have initiated wedding plans with an eye on a 2019 date – location will be Philadelphia.  Liz, in an effort to provide info on how to avoid issues in planning a wedding provided the woeful details of the planning process for Matthew’s wedding, set for August 31, 2019 in Newport.  Key to success is getting the list right before signing a contract on a location! (duh).  Karen’s charming children all made appearances as well as boyfriend to Grace, Nick.  He apparently hasn’t started his summer reading for his senior year – he is leaning toward Catch-22 and so the group, of course, offered their opinion.  Grace will read A Prayer for Owen Meany –and Karen will read it (again) as well. We reviewed the reading list for seniors at Sherwood and were pleasantly surprised by the variety (at least 10 were bootleg books!) but then disappointed with the soul killing assignment.

Jewelweed – Mary selected this book b/c she wanted to read something similar to The jewelweed.PNGBartender’s Tale – that focused on small town, slower pace of life and had interesting characters.

Mary and Liz LOVED the book – every aspect, the writing, the story, the characters.  Favorite characters were August (Mary) and Wally (Liz).  It was noted that it was a very sensory book and we struggled to understand the mystical elements -what was the author attempting? – (this is where additional input from bootleggers would have been helpful). Both Karen and Liz were reminded of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row with regard to the uniqueness of the characters.

Info on the author’s history was shared – a 30 year lapse in writing due to a motorcycle accident that left Mr. Rhodes paralyzed.  Both Liz and Mary are reading the prequel to Jewelweed, Driftless.  Liz had finished and commented that Jewelweed was the better offering of the two.

 Author History from Mary’s research:

Shelley will host in August.  Karen has chosen The Quiet American by Graham Greene.


Classic, but…

Bootleg June 2018:  Guest Post by Liz

We had six tonight to discuss Invisible Man, Liz’s pick. Powerful, challenging on different levels, stimulating conversation and questions. We toasted Shelley for her recent birthday (Sunday), saw photos of Kitty and Barry’s new home in Annapolis, welcomed Rose to book club with interest in her family/kids, and were happy to be together. Missed having Katie, Marie, Sue, Viviane, Karen S. invisible man

Liz selected the book because she has wanted to read a “classic” that addressed civil rights in the US as this is still, unfortunately, a problem in the US and doesn’t appear to be getting better anytime soon. 

Most didn’t care for it, as it was verbose and confusing – too long for an allegory story.  Ground breaking for its time and likely popular in haughty literary circles.


Talk Now (avoid regrets)

May 2018 @ Liz’s House (missing Mary, Karen C, Sue, Kitty…did I miss anyone?)

NEW MEMBER:  Welcome, Rose S.!

GENERAL CHATTER – So… I’ve been putting off writing this entry due to general busy-ness. And now I’m going to plead the same & pretty much skip this part. Suffice it to say, the food (apps, gazpacho & TWO sides, dessert) were yummy and we’re all doing pretty well. Here are some major announcements:

  • Liz’s Son #1 is engaged!
    • Surprise, surprise: she won’t kowtow Google’s mom-of-groom To Do list
  • Viv & Family US citizenship status continues to progress!
  • If there was something else major, I missed it. Apologies!

THE BOOK:  Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey Ways to Disappear

Viviane picked this book mostly because she likes to select non-American books that aren’t too lengthy and have a rather artistic or at least rather literary bent. This one filled the bill perfectly.

Most of us read it or were pages away from finishing. And we said (paraphrasing):

  • the book’s light, deft, breezy prose delivered increasingly diabolical plot twists and character reveals; not a fun read (for plot, esp.)
  • the translation seemed quite adept and nuanced (we also trusted it due to the author’s other profession)
  • Viviane opined that the setting is an exaggeration – it’s not all mafia thugs and grit
  • did the author/mother ALWAYS write so oddly (and get rescued by her one Super Editor)? or did the latest manuscript reflect her degrading mental status? We leaned toward the former (as in, she was never well…at least since her daughter was conceived)
  • we didn’t seem to really care about the romance (son/brother & translator); it was integral to some plot/character points & not poorly written…but somehow meh
  • one of the most vivid moments/reveals is when the editor explains how and why he finally caved to extortion to save his loved one – a microcosm for why the status quo remains for so many (at least in this book’s geographical reach)
  • interesting contrast to how the translator tries to disappear from her US-based life and doesn’t succeed very well (her fiancé tracks her down pretty easily; she’s often pushed aside as the interloper between siblings or to keep her invisible to the darker forces at hand)
  • wanted to know more about the ‘rich relatives’ who supply some of the author’s funding… some sort of witches around a kettle…er, pile of money???
  • some debate on how author/mom got into such bad debt… was it all due to writer’s block? remorse over hard truths left unrevealed and festering so many years? or just plain desperation/addiction? no clear resolution, but probably all 3
  • some other debate  if the ending equates to the author’s permanent demise or if there’s room for a sequel; we were leaning to the latter


NEXT MEETING:  June 28th at Mary’s

Liz’s pick:  Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Family Matters

April 2018 Meeting @ Viviane’s  (missing Kitty, Karen C)

Chit Chat

  • Viviane’s new furniture (her family is 110% wrong about the chairs) & the window (!) when it’s still light outside; also a recap of the wall-tearing-down she did to elevate the space (upon move in); PLUS:  dish chargers & platters & entrée w/rice…basically, her taste is IMPECCABLE
  • Liz has her A Game launched for flat shoes (silver sequined sneakers to start); no heels ’til next year (a lemons to lemonade scenario)
  • Viv’s NYC girls are surviving each other (precious: ‘but if I pay all the rent at once I only have $200 left’ …’go out less, walk more’ = perfect)
  • Margaret’s MFA reading approaches…good thoughts to her! (and submit to Poet Lore, girl!); enjoy the event, Mom Marie
  • David’s Yard Sale – he sells all the stuff his parents gave him (yes, he truly has a knack for business)
  • Mary & Kevin go to the Caps game – sure, the Caps won (a wow & esp. for her first game); more important:  they bagged Sunday work to have FUN
  • Sue hoping to host us in Florida in September. Sorry, not a likely scenario…
  • Our kids travel so much more than some of us do (e.g. Katelyn & Michael:  Europe; David, Matt:  everywhere)
  • Karen S arrived quite long after her salad (yum!), but once starvation was quelled she relayed a delightful Grandson’s 1st B’day Recap. And explained with such ‘unfettered joy’ about Christopher’s plans to take her camping [insert side eye here].

So Much More Than Chit Chat

  • Shelley’s family news added an entirely new dimension to ‘family’
  • genetics and generational tracking of features – a cool & fun hobby
  • Ancestry DNA – caveat emptor… as in, be ready for what you asked for

THE BOOK:  Chemistry – a novel by Weike Wang Chemistry

Marie picked it because

  1. It was short and easy to manage in a foreshortened picking period.
  2. She likes reading books of young women resolving family ties issues.
  3. The format was appealing.
  4. Marie likes reading debut novels…perhaps because of the not-so-thinly veiled autobiographical elements

Most of us read most-to-all of it.

  • overall, a thumbs up – mostly for the voice & text format or point of view
  • many did not like the main character – so much whining & not nice to boyfriend
  • but… she was bucking family mores & scared, depressed about lack of direction when science career bottoms out, and short on coping skills
  • the unwinding of the science career scenarios were very well written!
  • why did boyfriend stay with her? he did fall in love when things were steadier and won’t abandon her now; any attention is better than none; it’s nice to be needed
  • Tyler dates a woman who is Chinese…does she think Shelley & Ron are laughingly doting? [yes]
  • post-meeting question 1:  did any of us realize this is  marketed as a Young Adult (maybe New Adult) novel? does that even matter? [no]
  • post-meeting question 2:  is the title just ‘Chemistry’ [probably] and did the cover designer or editor add ‘a novel by’ in front of her name so the SEO wouldn’t think it was a text book? [probably] Related note:  like it better as part of the title, fwiw


Next Book – Viviane’s Pick:  Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey

Meeting at Shelley’s, date tba

OTHER Next Meeting tba:  Viv’s hubbie & a daughter get citizenship soon; Viv awaits her letter for her (oh-so-solemn) swearing-in date. LAS GRINGAS WANT TO ATTEND!!!usa-1439858_1920