The scoop on the book group. We call ourselves, informally, the Kenwood Book Group. Kenwood/Isles is one of the wealthiest areas of the city, tucked around the Lake of the Isles and north and west of Uptown, over to Mt. Curve which overlooks 394 to the north. Charming old houses, some I guess you would have to call mansions, nestled into the gentle hills and urban forest that surround the lakes. The turnout is usually five to ten people, men and women. No spouses. The penalty for having an affair with another member is expulsion, although we haven’t had to impose it yet. Tonight we had seven people show up. There were two CEO’s, a children’s book illustrator, a college English professor and a low level corporate lacky. The latter being me. I’m kind of the outsider of the group. New Hope isn’t exactly what you’d call a wealthy suburb. We have not yet met at my place, I don’t think they really want to schlepp out to the burbs and I’m a little nervous about how embarrassing it would be for them to try to say something nice about my house.
How the hell did I get in this bunch you ask. Well the illustrator is one of my old animation buddies whose been very successful and whose wife is even more so. Mike Reed. You may be familiar with his work, he’s the creator of the Flame Warriors. He is the founder of the group and really the driving force behind it. He knew that I liked reading Literature with a capital “L,” so he invited me to join. The original plan was to read the “classics” defined by us as literature from before 1960, or something like that. It doesn’t matter because we broke out of those confines within a few months. We’ve read Rusdie, a couple of Faulkners, Roth, and a variety of more obscure fiction. We’ve read some non fiction, we tried the Adams book but most, including me, couldn’t get through it. We have never settled on a process for choosing the next book, or rather we’ve settled on several processes, but have never stuck to any of them. We are an uncontrollable lot. Once we were supposed to go around the circle and each recommend a book. We might have gotten past two people before we were hopelessly lost on a tangent. You would think such successful people would be able to complete a simple group task, but no.
I’ve waffled through the years between dropping out and staying. I feel out of place. These are very bright and well read people. Many are trained in literary criticism, I missed that class. Their insights into the works and their ability to articulate them makes me sometimes feel like a stammering idiot. But I hang on. One reason is that I really like the people. Other than a very few exceptions, they are not ego maniacs. The two CEO’s are very liberal, one of them gets around town on the bus, even in winter. They are compassionate and interesting. I never would have read most of the books had I not been in the group. I don’t often get to participate (however weakly) in that level of discussion very often. And it gives me the chance to see Mike at least once a month. We’ve kind of drifted apart since he’s climbed the social ladder, but he’s still a great friend who’s company I enjoy. Plus, these people put out fabulous spreads of snack food. No cheese whiz yet.
Speaking of levels of discussion, that’s one of the reasons I hang out here. It’s great to hook up with smart, articulate folks of all ages. Not to mention funny! Thanks to all of you who entertain me with your posts and take the time to read and comment on mine.
Peace, bk

7 thoughts on “

  1. i’m envious.  not about the wealthy houses, but that you are in a book group with people who really know how to discuss books.  i’ve tried a couple of book groups.  one was like that feminist group in jerry maguire.  they would only read fiction by women and looked at things with a feminist angle.  that gets tiring.  the barnes and noble book discussion groups don’t open themselves to high quality discussions. 

    i loved the adams bio.  but i like books like that. 

  2. That sounds like a fantastic group, and I’m totally jealous that you’re friends with Mike Reed, I’ve seen his flame warriors site before… it’s brilliant, on the mark, and outrageously funny. 

  3. sounds like a good group. I don’t like it when I’m faced with people who make me feel dumb, mostly because it doesn’t happen all that often (I hang in low circles apparently ha) so I’m usually pretty shocked and humbled. I think it’s good for me, though, to be reminded just how little I really do know.

  4. Perhaps I’m not as enthusiastic about such a group because I’m still in school, and must balance between books I would like to read, and books I’m SUPPOSED to read.  I imagine that such a group would be a great way for one to flex his/her cranial muscle once a month, though.  Perhaps when I’m done with classes that require me to read books they insist are good for me…

    No cheese whiz??  Well, once those fellas get around to your humble abode, perhaps you’d better whip out the whiz.  I actually hear it goes great on Oreos……

    ok, so I don’t just HEAR it goes great on Oreos, I’ve tried it.  Yea, weird, I know, but as a self proclaimed “cultured” military brat (one that’s tried everything from cow testicles to alligator tail), I am always willing to try new things….it was actually kinda like cheesecake if you close your eyes. 


  5. Great friends are wonderful.  But never underestimate the greatness of intellectual associates.  Of couse, once they start spending all their time trying to prove that they’re smarter/better than you…well…there’s little fun to be found in that.

  6. I think I would almost have to belong to a group like that in order to get myself to freakin’ read more.  I actually love to do it, but in a time crunch, it’s one of the first things to go. 

    I also think that regardless of the social status of the people there, or how out of my depth I were, I would want to stay on, as long as the people didn’t turn me off.  I mean, as a teacher of seventh graders, I’d really like to be in a room where others know more than I do, so I don’t feel like I’m going brain dead.  And there was a time, just a few years ago, when I thought I was going nuts from only interacting with adolescents.  Xanga helped rescue me from that, actually.

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