Bar Book Club report

Scramble and confusion seemed to be the themes last night for our book club gathering...

Beer of choice--well, I'd ordered an Existential Porter, but apparently they'd just run out of it and rather than coming back to ask what I'd rather have, they substituted something completely different for it. That wasn't the end of the confusion, though. They then gave Cask-conditioned Punjabi Pale Ale to me and the other person who'd ordered the porter and gave the rye ale they had decided to offer in place of the porter to two others in our group (who'd ordered the Punjabi). I like the Punjabi Ale--it might have been my second choice if they'd asked--but you'd think they'd at least ask. We didn't make a big deal of it, but I'm still unimpressed.

We'd read Annie Dillard's The Living, a historical fiction novel set in colonial Pacific Northwest in the second half of the 19th century. It ends up centering roughly around one character, who goes from a rather shallow young man to a more thoughtful part of his family and community, but really I'd say it's more the story of the location and time period than about any particular character. Not many of us had read the entire book (and even I only did because I sped-read some pretty big sections...for which I blame how engrossed I'd been in Wolfe's Return to the Whorl so I didn't start this soon enough). Those of us who did had all read her nonfiction as well, and all agreed that she's a better nonfiction writer than fiction. That sounds overly critical--we really did enjoy this book, and it's not bad at all, but it just didn't seem quite up to the high mark of her nonfiction. It did seem a bit over long, and the antagonist (as much as there was one) seemed a bit contrived, but the development of Clare Fishburn and the evocation of the milieu and such were very well done.

The next part of our confusion was in who was supposed to bring the next selections. The person we'd been expecting to bring them was in Chicago for a conference. Of the other two whose turn we though it must be, one has a newborn and couldn't very well leave, and the other send a message midday yesterday that he couldn't make it either. So in case no one else brought anything, I grabbed a few on my way out the door. And good thing too. So our next book will be The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia. Hopefully next time they can handle our beer orders better.


Looking forward to your report on The Secret History of Moscow...I'm about three chapters into it.