Friday, December 11, 2009

A Cold Beer on a Hot Day

from Jacqueline

... of course, it could be a gin and tonic on a summer’s eve, according to taste.

I’m talking about books, in case you didn’t know. I belong to a book group in San Francisco, a group of (give or take) 8-10 women, all from varying backgrounds, all with a deep love of the written word and every one with a strong opinion and a direct manner of expressing her views. Frankly, I just like to sit back and listen to the dialogue, the banter, the conversation. Mind you, it gets a bit tricky when that conversation splits four ways and no one can hear themselves speak.

On Wednesday we all turned up at J’s house, Secret Santa book gift in one hand, a bottle of something nice in the other. J had put on the spread – it was her turn to host - and the conversation had begun in earnest before we even had a full compliment of members present. Joining that conversation was like diving into a pool and looking for a free lane. And it was great. But how did the cold beer enter the foray, when we were all quaffing chardonnay or pinot grigio, except for A who was experimenting with a wine called “Bitches Brew”? It came up when I asked the assembled group how they would describe the book, in a nutshell, seeing as I hadn’t read it, but that’s another story.

“It was like a cold beer on a hot day,” said JN.
M shook her head. “No, more like a gin and tonic, with lots of ice.
“It just went down easily, in one sitting,” added JN.
“But getting back to the plot, there was this bit ....” said K.

And they were off, out of the gate at a gallop again, one opinion flying here, another there; and I think I even heard a “What was she thinking?” uttered. The lionesses were into the carcass of that book and a feeding frenzy was in progress.

“You know what this reminds me of,” I said. “When I was a kid, listening to my mother and her sisters discussing the latest episode of Peyton Place.”
M leaned forward, “Well that’s it, this book was just like Peyton Place.”
Boom, voices were raised and we were into the meat of the matter once more. And pretty soon, we would be leaving the bones and walking away, on the prowl for another literary feeding.

“What will we read next time?” I asked, setting the detonator.
“No chick books,’ urged R. “Let’s read something by a man.”
“But we did Nick Hornby last time.”
“Oh, he doesn’t count.”
“What about a classic?” I suggested.
“On The Road,” said D.
“The Brother’s Karamazov,” A waved her Bitches Brew to press her point. “Or we could read a play.”

One suggestion followed another, with M rushing over to J’s bookshelves to pull out suitable TBR’s (J has an enviable collection). By the time I left, my head was buzzing, and I hadn’t even touched the Bitches’ Brew (it looked weird, very weird, a sort of cranberry-ish colored concoction). I had no idea when the next meeting would be, or what we would be reading, but no doubt A will be emailing the group this week with details. I drove home thinking about the book, about the other books that came up in conversation, and I felt very small in the world of what there is out there to read, all those different stories, all those writers with their tales, and millions of readers with their own tastes, highbrow or lowbrow, no plot or dense plot, and every book relevant and vital in its way, and appealing to someone’s idea of a good read.

I had scored Zadie Smith’s new collection of essays in the Secret Santa gift exchange (talk about a feeding frenzy ....), and even though it was late, I couldn’t wait to get home and dip into my prize. The fire was alight, the Christmas tree illuminated and in the corner the armchair beckoned. Now, what beverage would suit Zadie? A cup of chamomile tea, perhaps? Warm cocoa? A glass of hearty red wine? Or a hot toddy for a winter’s eve?


  1. Some good Jamaican rum.

  2. from Jacqueline

    Good idea - hadn't thought of rum. Myers, perhaps ...

  3. I think it is interesting that you mentioned Zadie Smith. Just this morning I forwarded an essay of hers to another one of your Nakeds, Cornelia. She is getting over flu and sitting in snow in her dear "Cow Hampshire". Thought the Zadie essay on essays would spark her juices.

  4. from Jacqueline

    I was thrilled to receive the Smith book, it was on my list of holiday indulgences. I am sure Our Miss C will love the essay - and banish the flu for a while.

  5. I once organized a book group, then got too busy to attend (it's still thriving under somebody else's leadership). We alternated between fiction and non fiction and often had the author or some related expert speak at the meeting. I read books I would have never selected for myself and learned that some of the smartest people I know don't share my opinions.

  6. I am too shy for book groups and if I ever had to host one I would be nervous that my tofurkey pigs-in-a-blanket wouldn't pair with the Bitches Brew someone would bring.

    Jacqueline mentioned that Zadie Smith's "Changing My Mind:Occasional Essays" was on her wish list this season. Could all of the Naked Authors post their recent favorite books or ones they haven't gotten to yet? In addition to, of course, each other's current releases!