I left the Pfister Book Club October meeting last week a little giddy. Not because we all loved the month’s book, Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss, so much (spoiler: overall, it confused more than thrilled us) but precisely because even for a dense, perplexing book, 40 of you showed up. The fact that so many of you came, not necessarily because you adored the title to be talked about but for other, more important reasons, truely heartened me.
Forest Dark left us with far more questions than answers. But what lively discussions it sparked! We talked about profound themes like memory, Jewish history, the crucial identity that stems from place, existential crises, and tremendous loss. We also talked about equally compelling topics such as how many people really jumped from a roof, did these parallel stories ever link at all, who was that man with the suitcase, and perhaps above above all, what was this author thinking?? I told everyone that while Forest Dark seemed to me a book that bit off more than it could chew, its deliberate throwing off the conventions of the typical novel and its poetic writing were undeniable. Try The History of Love by Nicole Krauss instead; it’s insanely beautiful and one of my top three favorite books of all time.
Here are some of my personal highlights of the evening:
– Jumping around from group to group and eavesdropping on intriguing conversations in every single one.
– Meeting so many new faces and the buzzy feeling of talking about books with so many different people.
– An astounding dessert created by Pfister Executive Pastry Chef Travis Martinez called “Malabi”, an Israeli milk pudding flavored with rosewater, to which he added fresh pomegranates, pistachios, figs, sesame tuile and….wait for it…edible gold. It tasted like a flower garden with precious riches we could eat. It’s one of a small handful of desserts I’ve eaten in my life that I won’t forget because of it’s sheer specialness. (I thanked Travis the next day with a glowing, gushing email because I loved it that much. He humbly responded with a simple, “Anytime.” He’s just THAT GOOD at what he does.)
– Hearing one guest tell how she has written down every single book she’s read for almost forty years and realizing what a treasure that notebook, and all those words embedded in her, really are.
– The ownership in YOUR book club you all are beginning to display. This is one of the most endearing parts of the Pfister, isn’t it: a place rich with beauty and history that countless people have found their own place in. One group, who have become fast friends these past four months and greet each other each meeting with genuine glee, decided to bring books that they love and are done reading to swap with one another. I thought it was such a wonderful idea, and was so jealous of some of the titles I saw them passing around their table, that I’d like to encourage everyone to be part of their idea next month.
For our next book club meeting (November 9, 7-9 pm), feel free to bring one or several books that you’ve read, loved, and finished with to swap with others. What a beautiful way to share the stories that have meant something to us!
Speaking of our November meeting, we will be reading Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. As it was published in 2001, there’s a good chance you’ve already read it, but it’s just so rich and moving it deserves a rereading. In case you haven’t read it, here’s a description of Bel Canto:
Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country’s vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of Mr. Hosokawa, a powerful Japanese businessman. Roxanne Coss, opera’s most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening — until a band of gun-wielding terrorists breaks in through the air-conditioning vents and takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different countries and continents become compatriots.
Without the demands of the world to shape their days, life on the inside becomes more beautiful than anything they had ever known before. At once riveting and impassioned, the narrative becomes a moving exploration of how people communicate when music is the only common language. Friendship, compassion, and the chance for great love lead the characters to forget the real danger that has been set in motion and cannot be stopped.
Ann Patchett has written a novel that is as lyrical and profound as it is unforgettable. Bel Canto engenders in the reader the very passion for art and the language of music that its characters discover. As a reader, you find yourself fervently wanting this captivity to continue forever, even though you know that real life waits on the other side of the garden wall. Bel Canto is a virtuoso performance by one of our best and most important writers. It is a novel to be cherished.
Thank you all, for making this Pfister Book Club your own, for coming even when the sky darkens early and you didn’t love the book, and for helping me celebrate the written word in such a dazzling way.