The First Meeting of a New Seattle Book Club

Dave suggested I show up at Dunshee House an hour and a half before the meeting, so that I could rearrange the furniture in the large living room to best suit the attendance level. He’d also warned me that the room was a mess, so I thoroughly expected when I dashed into Dunshee House yesterday at 4:30 to find the vacuum cleaner parked in the middle of the floor waiting for me, with piles of spare chairs waiting upstairs to be carried down the staircase.

Instead, I found the living room immaculate – Dave had taken care of it during the day, and all the spare chairs were piled there waiting to be used. Since you can’t plan for an unknown, and I had no idea whether to expect three or thirty members for this first meeting, I couldn’t very well arrange chairs. So I paced.

In pacing I discovered Tom in the kitchen, who’d come early and was busy preparing several platters of hors d’oeurves, cantaloupe and honeydew slices wrapped together with prosciutto, mini Swedish pancakes with sour cream and orange-soaked salmon bits, cheese and crackers in alternating rows. Clearly Tom was planning on a good attendance.

The night was a stormy, rain-soaked mess. Traffic was a nightmare. It took Brad fifty minutes to get from the University Book Store up to Capitol Hill, over twice as long as it usually takes. Then William walked in with a platter of his own homemade cookies, followed by Gene, the guy who’d modeled naked for our advertising campaign, and then Grant, the UW intern who’d helped me get out the postcards and posters and news releases. Grant had yesterday gone to Lambert House, an underage gay refuge and safety house, and spoken to a number of young people at dinner. His visit resulted in Jamie, Savoy and Remy all walking through the door of Dunshee House, coming to the first book club meeting, a triumph since passing on a love of gay literature to the young was a high priority of the Seattle Gay and Lesbian Book Club.

What might have then been a problem wasn’t one. The three teens hadn’t read the book, and neither had Cal, the oldest of our members. Greg had recently had an eye operation, a cornea replacement, and couldn’t focus on reading yet, but Tom was patiently reading the novel to him, and they’d covered seven chapters. But that meant five of the twelve didn’t know the text.

Fortunately, the character of Scot, the effeminate eleven-year-old boy at the heart of Breakfast with Scot, causes controversy simply by his existence, and whether the guys had read the book or not, they all had opinions on the topic: why is it that sissies make us uncomfortable? The novel separates effeminacy from gayness – Scot may not be gay. He just likes make-up and baton-twirling.

I was excited to announce to the members that author Michael Downing has agreed to participate in the book club, answering any questions we pose to him, so that each week we’ll have the author’s answers for the questions of the week before. Hilariously enough, not until I announced that we had five minutes left and we’d have to clear the room for the group that followed us did the reading group rise and lunge for the appetizers in the center of the room on the round glass coffee table.

Although the entire meeting felt effortless, the moment it was over I went quietly brain-dead. I would have forgotten the six books I’d brought along if Gene hadn’t grabbed them for me. And I lost my black stocking cap. It’s somewhere in Dunshee House. I was completely wiped out, but happy. The conversation was compelling, it never lagged, no one dominated, the age span had been from 17 to 70, and there was plenty left to discuss. This is going to be a fun book club.

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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.

2 Comments on "The First Meeting of a New Seattle Book Club"

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  1. I love reading about your book group experiences! I’ve run a book group in the past, although currently I’m just a “member” of one. I know one of your previous posts said that you weren’t sure you could blog and run book groups and do everything else in your life. I hope you continue to blog. You always have good insights.

  2. misha.stone@spl.org' misha says:

    How exciting that the group has now begun! I’m with Holly–I hope you keep managing your balancing act so we can all hear about it and learn from your experiences and perspectives!

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