Magazine article The Saturday Evening Post

Book Club Bondage: Before Joining a Book Club, First Page through Its Reading List

Magazine article The Saturday Evening Post

Book Club Bondage: Before Joining a Book Club, First Page through Its Reading List

Article excerpt

WHEN MY FRIEND Eden invited me to join her book club, I was thrilled. After all, securing a slot in a desirable book club had become as competitive as gaining acceptance to Harvard. Now, the next time my neighbor invited me to watch American Idol with her, I would sigh, "I wish I could, but I must polish off the last 300 pages of The Rise and Fall of Western Civilization for my book club meeting tonight."

I got cracking right away on the group's current selection, a bestselling novel that critics had hailed as "a work of extraordinary genius." But I was in trouble by page three. This was a baleful tale of unceasing misery inflicted upon a gentle soul named Geet, who had the bum luck to be born into a corruption-plagued Third World country where every possible hell was visited upon him by evil government authorities, street thugs, and assorted scoundrels.

But Geet did not suffer alone. With 543 pages of purgatory still ahead, I shared his torment: Geet's pneumonia on page 36; the theft of his meager possessions on page 98; his best friend's death on page 255. I dared not imagine the horrors of page 456. I wondered: Was this any way to spend my precious reading time?

I expected the other members to hate the book as much as I did. I was wrong. "I thought the writing was exquisite," the hostess opined. "It reminds us all of the banality of evil."

"I agree," nodded another bookworm. "When Geet had his only remaining foot cut off by the oncoming train, it was obviously a metaphor for the abuses of unchecked governmental power."

Bewildered by this praise, I worried that I was not smart enough to appreciate a literary work this depressing. When I declared that I thought the book should be required reading for all prison inmates, because it was the worst punishment I could think of, the group was silent. Good, maybe they'll kick me out! …

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