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Jana the Obscure Book Club Host

June 13, 2011

My Maladjusted Readers, I am sorry.

I’ve been quite remiss in picking our next book.

It’s summer, you see, and I have such a stack of books I want to read. As Commodus from Gladiator says, “All my desires are splitting my head to pieces.” He also says, “It vexes me. I’m terribly vexed.”

Commodus and I get each other.

So far this summer (and by summer, I mean since I taught my last college writing class in May), I have read the following:

Poser: My Life in 23 Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer

(I skipped a lot of those poses towards the end. Too much bending.)

The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kennison

(enjoyed so much I bought a copy for my friend)

The first few chapters of The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

(until the angry library ebook police snatched it back)

Bossypants by Tina Fey

(Hilarious! Her parents live near me, you know)

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott


Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

(Horribly depressing but wonderfully written)

Finished The Happiness Project (finally!) by Gretchen Rubin

(good stuff, I tell you)

I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson

(I think I am Allison Pearson’s muse’s American cousin)

If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This by Robin Black

(best short stories I’ve read in a long time, have a few left)

And now, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield for my in-real-life book club

(Loving it!)

As well as some New Yorker articles and stories…

(Don’t miss Kate Walbert’s “M&M World” or George Saunders’ “Home.”)

In addition to NPR podcasts of Fresh Air and Philadelphia’s own Radio Times….

(Did you hear how Keith Richards talked to Terry Gross? “Dahling” and “honey”? I feared her head would explode through the radio.)

So you see I’ve been busy, which is why you can forgive me for being remiss on the book club order. I am plagued by the books I own which I have not yet gotten to, and by the ones I keep requesting at the library before I can finish the one currently in my hands. It is a wondrous and happy problem, only very slightly stressful—that happy kind of stress like when you’re figuring out where to go to dinner on vacation or what vase you shall put your new dozen roses in.

So I hope your forgiveness and your understanding also leads to your open-mindedness for the next book club selection. And now that Oprah’s over, our book club is a pretty big deal.

The Thirteenth Tale, which I am reading currently, pays homage to 19th century novels, ones full of suspense and mystery, of passion and symbolism and fires in the attic. Or women in the attic. Either.

No, we’re not reading The Thirteenth Tale. That would be too easy for me, like cheating on a test I made for myself. But reading it is making me hungry to dig into one of those 19th century novels Setterfield evokes. Not the boring and wordy ones, like Dickens or Austen (sorry, Charles and Jane! You have your time and place, so go back to sleep), but the soap operatic ones that made Victorians so mad they spit or ripped their lace-up boots or set things to flaming or, even worse, cursed.

The ones by dear, sweet Thomas Hardy.

People are a little prejudiced against him, I’ll have you know. People think, “Yeck! Boring. What kind of a name is Hardy?”

But let me tell you something, Missy. (And Mister, for our one male participant.) He sure knew how to piss people off. Not only that, but his writing is awesome. He was keeping women (and some high-strung men) very entertained on their couches after lunch long before General Hospital.

Not physically! With his stories, you scurrilous toad!

His writing also lends itself quite nicely to book club discussions. You have religion, England’s class system, fornication…. In essence, superb summer reading.

Jude the Obscure.

Any edition will do. Even an eBook! Woah!

I actually knew a Jude who disappeared from the face of the earth. (I can’t find him on google anywhere. Damn hippie.) Anyway, in senior English, when we could pick a book by an old dead white guy for our final project, he picked this one, and I picked D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers. I pretty much liked my risque choice, but from what I can remember, Jude didn’t finish his.

So I’m dying to know how it all turns out.

Monday, August 1.

Be there, or be obscure.

I can’t believe I’m doing this to myself….

Are you in?

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