Monday, December 21, 2015

Classic Literature Book Club

“I don’t know what’s worse: to not know what you are and be happy, or to become what you’ve always wanted to be, and feel alone.”   - Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon
This is weird to talk about, but making friends as an adult is really awkward.  
Back in my high school and college days I befriended effortlessly, however I'm a bit pickier now.  Acquaintances are easy to come by, but real friends - kindred spirits with similar life styles, schedules, and ideas are not.  I'm going to estimate that, for about every six dozen acquaintances who walk through your life, one really great friend comes along.  I happen to be blessed with some of the most amazing comrades and co-conspirators you have ever met, buuuuut....when I moved, I left them behind in Michigan.   
“Despairing of human relationships (people were so difficult), she often went into her garden and got 
from her flowers a peace which men and women never gave her.” 
- Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

I'm not the type of person who hangs out with others just to avoid being alone.  
In fact, I actually like having time alone to read and think and create, but I also recognize that community is beneficial for growth.  So how would I solve this problem?  I wasn't exactly sure.  I mean, honestly: I could meet people anywhere, but where could I find my people?   My "people" are bursting with life and energy, open to new ideas, hungry for knowledge, and full of compassion and awareness.  It's easy to be picky when you've had ten years to curate a group of perfectly perfect friends, but how do you start from scratch in a new place?
“I may not have been sure about what really did interest me, 
but I was absolutely sure about what didn't.” - Albert Camus, The Stranger

In the spirit of trying new things (remember: 2015 is the Year of Adventure), I joined a Classic Lit Book Club this summer. I'm still working my way through the 100 Greatest Novels List, so I figured: why not?  Now, I will be the first to admit my preconceived (and very negative) notion of a club that chooses to focus exclusively on classic literature: pompous scholars with upturned noses debating and scoffing at each other. As I walked into the coffee shop to join my book discussion, one I've already read before: Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, my stomach turned. I wondered if I'd have anything to offer or gain from the group, or if they would smirk at my tattered thrift store copy and hastily printed Wiki notes.
“As a body everyone is single, as a soul never” 
- Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf

...and how did it turn out?  
Awesome.  Seriously.  It wasn't off putting at all, and while the members are intellectual and occasionally outspoken, they are also welcoming and funny.  We have great conversations about the books and everything else.  It's nice to be in the company of people that challenge my thinking and encourage me to see things from a different point of view.  Yay! I found my people!
“It's such a happiness when good people get together.” 
- Jane Austen, Emma

Our little group meets once a month to discuss a new book.  
The routine provides me with some accountability, demanding that I set aside reading time every week - although, let's be real here: I usually power-read through the last half of the book in the days right before our meet up.  But hey, that still counts, right?  I've even listened to the audio version on my computer while doing things like dishes or laundry.  Sometimes, Patrick reads the book out loud to me as I work on projects (I know, I'm spoiled and it's ridiculous).  He has also started attending the meetings and I'm always surprised by what he has to say.  It's interesting to me that everyone can read the same book and have a completely different experience or interpretation.
“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly -- they’ll go through anything. 
You read and you’re pierced.” 
- Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

"I have read in your face, as plain as if it was a book, 
that but for some trouble and sorrow we should never know half the good there is about us." 
-  Charles Dickens, The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain

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