A Very, Very Small Book Club Meeting

Thoughts come to a guy sitting alone in a restaurant, knowing no one is going to join him for his book club discussion.

Why did I have to choose such a thick, difficult book? Why couldn’t I choose something shorter and more fun? Night Train to Lisbon is rich and toothsome and full of thoughts, no doubt, but not everyone is willing to wade through italicized chunks of philosophy, dozens of characters, and two alternating plots to get their reading high. I was sitting alone at the big round banquette in the back of the Ravenna Varsity Restaurant. The round table is designed for eight. I had laid out my list of characters. I had spread out my chapter plot summaries. I just didn’t have any club members.

I was trying to blame it on the snow warning that night and searching the menu for comfort food when in walked the one member that I knew hated the book. Joline had tried to read it, called me for encouragement, given it two more fair shots, and thrown it down the weekend before our meeting after slugging through 150 pages. Night Train to Lisbon just wasn’t giving her what she wanted out of a book. But she’d come to the meeting anyway, hoping to hear what the others thought.

Then in walked Lillian, the one member who I knew had loved the novel as wildly and passionately as I did. I wasn’t expecting Lillian because she would have to bus to our meeting from West Seattle. That’s a two-bus trip on a night when all the weather stations predicted snow. She came anyway. She didn’t want to miss the discussion.

To our delight, one more member came striding toward us. Lowen, our Ballard author friend, always joins us when he’s in town. Lowen’s copy was all marked up with pen. He had quibbles with numerous passages due to the translation. He had wrestled his way through the novel, but he liked it with reservations.

The teenage nightshift manager took our orders. Then without even trying the four of us fell into a classic book conversation. What we lacked in membership, we made up in a perfect balance of reactions and ideas. To my surprise, though the novel has two heroes, we were uniformly obsessed with discussing only one of them.

It was almost eight o’clock by the time I said good night to Lillian at the bus stop, both of us utterly satisfied with our meeting. There was no snow in sight. Maybe choosing a genuinely good book was the way to go, after all.

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About the Author:

Nick DiMartino is a university bookseller in Seattle, WA. He was a Booklist contributor from 2007 to 2009 and is the author of Seattle Ghost Story (1998) as well as numerous plays.

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