On Saturday I celebrated a “first” (for me, anyway). Mayhem at the Happy Valley Motor Inn and Resort was the featured book for a Tallahassee book club meeting, and I was invited to say a few words and answer questions from those in attendance.
It was a virtual meeting, so there were no worries about masks or social distancing. But I did pour myself a glass of Merlot, because what’s a book club meeting without wine?
I was a bit nervous at first, but the experience was so much fun that I soon forgot about my nerves and just relaxed and enjoyed myself. The funniest thing was that some attendees knew my book as well as, and in one instance, slightly better than I did! That was humbling and a little scary. Now I need to reread Mayhem before any future book club adventures.
Today, I feel like Steve Martin’s character in The Jerk when he discovers his name in the phone book:
Why is that? Because my friend, Michele, who I met through the Meetup app, asked if I’d be interested in having Mayhem at the Happy Valley Motor Inn and Resort discussed at the group’s monthly book club meeting via Zoom in April.
Of course I said yes.
As my character, Zeke Fitzgerald, would say, “Well, don’t that beat all?”
This was my first Zoom experience, and for the most part the technology worked well. A couple of those attending experienced technical difficulties, and I know that was frustrating for them.
I believe there were nine of us in the meeting, and it truly was an international experience with one attendee from England and another from France. The U.S. was represented by folks from Texas, New Mexico, Oregon, Idaho, and Florida. Due to the time differences, some folks were enjoying a glass of wine while we met, while others were still savoring their morning cups of coffee. Me, being in the middle joined the wine drinkers, of course.
Opinions on the book, Infield by Téa Obreht were mixed. The story tended to appeal most to those of us who’d grown up in the Southwest. The themes of thirst and need certainly resonated with me. It’s not light reading, by any means.
But—there are camels in Infield. And who doesn’t love camels? A very small portion of the book is set in Camp Verde, Texas. Several years ago Studly Doright and I were staying in Kerrville, Texas, with a group of our motorcycling friends. The men left early one morning to enjoy riding the sweeping curves of the Texas Hill Country at speeds that make me shudder, while three of us women set off on our own slower paced ride.
It was my day to lead, and I hate being the leader, but I took my turn without too much grumbling. We had no destination in mind that day, so I just headed south. We hadn’t gone more than about 19 miles when I thought I’d begun hallucinating, for in the near distance stood a camel calmly grazing. There was a sign posted that read “Camp Verde” and another for a general store, so I made an executive decision and turned left into the parking lot.
My friends and I spent the entire morning at the General Store, shopping, having lunch, and learning about the Camel Corps.
It seems I got sidetracked on my book club report, but I’d recommend this method of meeting if your group is jonesing to get together. I’m not very savvy when it comes to technology, but I was able to join the meeting with ease. I did keep forgetting to mute my mic when others were talking. Next time I’ll put a sticky note on my computer to remind me.
I’m a book club dropout. Over the years I’ve belonged to several, but after a few weeks or months I become disenchanted and gracefully, I hope, bow out.
On the surface, it would seem that I’d be a book club aficionado. My reading habit is nearly insatiable, and if I only had money enough for food and books, I’d grow very skinny, but I’d have plenty to read.
I have a couple of issues with book clubs, though. First, I like to read what I want to read when I want to read it. I think if I could belong to a club in which we all simultaneously read a book of our own choosing and then met to exchange information about our chosen books, I’d be all in.
The second issue is that often the book I didn’t want to read, but read anyway because someone in the book club chose it, isn’t really discussed at the meeting. The group might start off discussing the book, but within five minutes the meeting dissolves into a purely social occasion. Argh.
I’m certain there are clubs out there that I would enjoy. I just haven’t found one yet.
Today, though, I’m going to participate in an international book club meeting via Zoom with several people I know from my senior year at Dumas high school. The instigator of this group, M.E., recommended the book, Infield by Téa Obreht, after she’d read it and felt the need to discuss it with others. I’m one of the lucky others.
M.E. was particularly persuasive, leading me to hurriedly complete the Peter F. Hamilton book I’d been reading in order to read Infield. I was quite taken with the book. It reminds me in ways of some totally different kinds of tales: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, and John Steinbeck’s story, The Chrysanthemums. The book also includes a touch of the supernatural, and I’d almost say magical realism.
I cannot wait to discuss this book with M.E., et. al. The meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. my time—a time frame that will work for our friends in France and all over the U.S.
M.E., who lives on the west coast, has put a lot of thought and effort into making this happen today. And honestly, I won’t care if we end up socializing five minutes into the meeting. After all, many of those planning to take part today haven’t seen each other since 1975. We visit on Facebook, but nothing like we’ve got planned.
Yesterday I shared a poem I wrote called, The Dusthttps://nananoyz5forme.com/2020/01/14/the-dust/. It was inspired by memories of my childhood in Floydada, Texas, when the wild winds blew stinging dust into every little nook and cranny of my world. I hated the dust and the dry Texas winds. They drove me slightly mad. Explains a lot, doesn’t it?
And as a young wife, I grew to hate the wind and dust even more when on two separate occasions the back door of our rental house in Dumas, Texas, blew open while Studly and I were at work. We came home to find inches of dust on our floors, our furnishings, and inside of our cabinets. I cleaned for days and still found dust where dust shouldn’t be. I cursed the dust.
When Studly and I moved away from the Texas panhandle I missed the family and friends we left behind, but never the wind and the dust. I could live there again if I had to, but I pray I’ll never have to.
While living in Illinois I joined an informal book club. We drank a lot of wine and sometimes even discussed the book we’d been assigned to read that month. One that made the biggest impact on me was The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan.
The book chronicles the Dust Bowl era of the 1930’s through interviews with those who lived through that time. I knew every town mentioned in the book. And as awful as my memories of windy, dusty days were, they were nothing compared to the nightmare of the Dust Bowl years.
One lady in the book club complained that the book went on about the dust way too long. I countered with, “I think that was the point.”
If the author had glossed over even a bit of the despair caused by the weather conditions he’d have missed his mark. She also asked if anyone still lived there.
“Well, yes,” I said. “I have family and friends there along with hundreds of thousands of other hardy folks.”
“Unbelievable,” she said.
There is a lot of beauty in that part of the country–days so perfect, sunsets so gorgeous, you could almost cry. But I always remember the dust.
I grew up in the Texas panhandle, one of the areas hardest hit by the Dust Bowl. Although that was before my time, I heard many a tale from my grandparents about the dark days when the dirt blew non-stop, filling every nook and cranny and clogging lungs.
Several years ago, a book club I belonged to in Illinois, read the book, The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan. It’s a rather long book filled with firsthand accounts of the Dust Bowl Days, and while I don’t usually indulge in nonfiction, I found this book fascinating.
When the book club members met to discuss The Worst Hard Time I was excited to share my perspectives. One woman, a New Yorker transplanted to Illinois, couldn’t believe that people still live in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles. I assured her that not only did people still live there, they thrived.
I highly recommend the book. If you read it, let me know what you think.