I had long ago set a few rules for myself:
1. No Diet Coke.
2. No Brazilian bikini waxes.
3. No book clubs.
once got thirsty and broke the first rule, I won't comment on the
second and the third, well, the third rule had been untested for at
least two years, when last I was asked (and declined) to join a book
club. But last week, Ande sent me a message over MySpace asking me to
join a group she's starting for "non-flaky types."
She said she wants to read "Everything Is Illuminated," and like many women my age, she would rather not do so alone.
only recently met Ande, and I liked her right away. Hubby was meeting
me at a museum where I had taken Zev for the afternoon, and he
surprised me by bringing her with him. I was in a bad mood that day and
a little resentful of being forced to meet someone new while covered in
sweat and baby food. But within 15 minutes, I invited her over for
Still, that's not enough to break a cardinal rule. I
wrote her back, explaining that my problem with authority extends to
But the truth is I'm an embarrassingly slow reader.
I mean, really, really slow.
summer, I read "Lincoln's Melancholy," by Joshua Wolf Shenk. That's it.
Just "Lincoln's Melancholy." It's not a particularly long book, but it
took me all summer to read it. Before that, I read Tom Robbins'
"Jitterbug Perfume." Started it in February. Finished it in June. At
this moment, I'm not reading anything – I've got to recuperate from the
intense reading schedule of the last seven months.
fun of my snail's pace ("I think you're the only person I know who
writes faster than she reads.") but he's also the first to come to my
defense ("You read constantly – magazines, newspapers. That's why it
takes you so long to get through books.").
It's sweet of him to
say, but he reads as many magazines and newspapers as I do – and he
still manages to plow through books like nothin'.
pace has been a point of shame my whole life – a deficiency I have
tried hard to cover up, with varying degrees of success.
my senior year of high school, Ben Glassman sat kitty-corner behind me
in English class. One day, when we were doing "silent reading" at our
desks, he passed me a note.
"Timed you as you read that last page. Took you 20 minutes."
that point on, I bowed out of study groups, shied away from borrowing
friends' books and, of course, declined all invitations to join book
clubs. Why call attention to this embarrassing shortcoming?
Ande's invitation isn't easy to avoid. For one, she's Israeli, and
Israelis can be powerfully persuasive. And two, after becoming a mom, I
seem to have lost my social life along with my waistline. I've promised
myself I'd meet new, interesting people and do something that's just
for me. I was going to start playing on a softball team that someone
had invited me to join, but I run even slower than I read.
I told Ande I'd join. She seemed genuinely happy and asked me to
suggest some books for the group to read before the first meeting in a
How about "Lincoln's Melancholy?" Either that or "Jitterbug Perfume."