Mi Club De Libros Es Chido
(My Book Club Is Cool!)
By Margaret Ann Porter
A few years ago a friend suggested that I join her book club. The invitation gave me pause for awhile, largely because it always seemed to me that ‘book clubs’ and ‘sex orgies’ emanated from the same realm of life experience. Not that I had any first-hand knowledge of either one, but I had read about them. So at first I didn’t know how to respond and I feared a retraction of her interest if I explained my fears.
You see, while immersed in a book the brain delights in pure carnality, where the frontal lobes shamelessly flirt with each other, the parietal lobes grow tumescent as the sensory areas become washed in cerebral fluid, and then the occipitals and temporals begin to prance around naked, heightening the excitement, everyone hoping that the hypothalamus shows up with a pure shot of emotion so that the party can really start to swing. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to share all of this with strangers.
Finally, I decided that one ought to actually join something if one is to reside in the territory of the Socialife-istas. So I said ‘yes’ to the book club and what a nice surprise it has turned out to be.
The 12 women in the club have taught me a great deal about how people interact with books. For some, books are joyfully chugged like pints of ale, including the gut-pleasing belch and immediate call for another round. These people are prolific book-buyers, stocking the little fridge that is their e-reader with thousands of un-imbibed titles just because someone brewed it up. Some people carefully select their books with all the sober-minded consideration of a congregant in search of a sympathetic church. Many members are heavy readers of non-fiction – from philosophy to sociology to the history that inspires – and they often share insights that cause one to feel the lesser of fortunate mortals. Some people just show up for the food and companionship.
Each month, one of us gets to choose the book that we will read together, like it or not. Mostly, the selections and discussions have illuminated my understanding of this curious passage of time that we call ‘life on planet Earth.’ I am grateful.
The club endeavors to read some books about Mexico each year – her history, culture and influences in literature. Being forced to read these has improved my understanding of this place. I will leave you with a few to consider:
The Hummingbird’s Daughter, Luis Alberto Urrea: Fiction. Teresita will cause laughter, tears, long sighs and stunned silences in this tale of miracles and dark violence, unfettered merriment and supernatural awakenings, all brought to life by characters that seem to shout their love at you. I fell hard for her rascal of a father – I still think of him today, but he’s moved on.
A Visit to Don Octavio, Sybille Bedford: Travelogue. Don’t let the genre mislead you. This is witty, intelligent story-telling served up by German-born, British-reared Bedford concerning her travels in Mexico – principally, around Lake Chapala – circa 1950, with an intricate slice of Mexican history on the plate. It is more fragrant, delicious and far spicier than the New Year’s Day birria in Jocotepec, but without any of the indigestion.
One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Fiction. First, google “magical realism.” Then enter a dream where you find yourself quite stoned and you discover membership in the bizarre Buendia family, where passion flows through arteries that are clogged by a destiny that might include sudden Ascension. You feel so proud when you finally get to page 417, the last page, where you’ll discover yourself to be rather clear-eyed about the magic of realism.
Pedro Paramo, Juan Rulfo: Fiction. Suspend your rational thinking and go on a horseback ride out in hacienda-land with the father of Magical Realism, Señor Rulfo, in this short book. Witness a fantastical journey as Juan Preciado tries to make peace with his paternity, as well as with the woman in the grave next to him, among other spooky, time-shifting happenstances that are completely mind-blowing.
The Life & Times of Mexico, Earl Shorris: Non-fiction. Shorris, who died in 2012, was a writer, academic and humanitarian. With his immense research skills, 3000-years of historical knowledge and first-hand political analysis, prepare yourself to know Mexico better than you thought you ever would – she’s a resourceful beauty, ever-bursting with brilliance and possibility, so eager to love and be loved, but she sometimes forgets to bathe on purpose.