Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Book Club Blows My Cover

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
assigned readings. 

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.

Hubby makes
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'.

My painful
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
few weeks.

How about "Lincoln's Melancholy?" Either that or "Jitterbug Perfume."


  1. Oh my goodness. There are more than one of us out there. I have always been embarassed that I read so slow. I shy away from reading much of anything unless it's entertainment magazines. My problem is focus. I get distracted and have to re read everything I just read. I found out in high school I could not read at all unless I had complete silence. It was infuriating to say the least. Now, my brain is a think ooey mush cause I don't read. Atleast you still do. I envy my father who can read 400 pages books like lightning. Why couldn't I have got that from him instead of his bizarre sense of homor? Scratch that I want both.
    Love the column,

  2. Everything Is Illuminated is a piece of genius. You should definitely read it.
    The movie isn't too bad either.

  3. Number one reason you CAN'T join a bookclub:
    Small children.
    Which in and of itself equates to no time/braincells/vocabulary to devote to the reading of literature.
    Didn't anyone in your mom's club mention this to you?