August, 2018: A Short History of a Small Place, by T. R. Pearson

(Book #100) Melissa hosted us on her roof deck on what happened to be the occasion of our 100th book! While some of the members didn’t enjoy #100 (because parts of it do go on) I tried to read some of the parts that made it a very worthwhile read for me and that is all mentioned in the evening email:

It was the 100th book the club had read together, and I got that from Mrs. Phillip J. King who got it from her cleaning woman, who had gotten it from a cousin of one of the club members, Melissa K Alderton who hosted the fateful meeting on the roof of her building. According to Mrs Phillip J. King, Melissa was one of the original members of the club and was well-versed in the code of hospitality and her duties as a hostess. Mrs. Phillip J King remarked that the alcoholic beverage Miss Alderton served was “bracing” but then went straight on ahead and said “decadent!” Mrs Phillip J King couldn’t say exactly what was in it, but believed it was a concoction of bourbon, orange juice and a soda like 7-Up. She felt certain it should not be consumed while standing on the roof. Mrs Phillip J King said that the 7 book club members snacked on cheese and crackers, nuts and watermelon wedges while they sipped on the decadent drink. When supper was served, the book club members helped themselves to pulled pork, rolls, bbq beans and cole slaw and Mrs. Phillip J King said more than one member helped herself to seconds.The book club members talked about the book and two of the members seemed right taken by the words but one kept repeating there was too much repeating. Mrs. Phillip J. King said she was sure she didn’t know what was meant by that. Then the member who repeated repeatedly that there was too much repetition, made the rest of the members be quiet so she could read to them. Mrs Phillip J King said she didn’t know if the others weren’t able to read for themselves, but she said she though they must be so endowed and therefore she could not imagine why one would start to read to the rest. After the reading, which Mrs Phillip J King said was  the Reverend Holroyd’s eulogy for Miss Pettigrew in which he mentioned that he had once danced with her and was number eleven on her dance card directly after Mr. Emory Hobson. Well, according to Mrs. Phillip J KIng, that was pretty much the end of it and the next thing they knew tests were being handed around with pens to write the answers. Mrs Phillip J King said the six book club members (minus the reader who handed out the test) sputtered and protested, but the reader said “It’s fun. It’s fun. Just start, it’s fun.” “There were 100 questions on the test!” Mrs. Phillip J KIng exclaimed and “It was getting dark enough they couldn’t see to write the answers” but the reader said “It’s fun. You’ll have fun.” When they finished all the questions, Mrs. Phillip J King said it turned out  the questions were about the curious and remarkable things that the book club members had done in the name of hospitality. It turned out this test was the celebration (?) of their 100th book together and each of the members who could no longer see their papers were given a present in a plain brown wrapper. Mrs. Phillip J King couldn’t guess what would be in such a wrapper but she got it from her cleaning woman’s cousin that inside the brown wrapper was a poster of the 100 books the book club members had read. Then, just when it was time for a lovely dessert of peach crisp with ice cream, the reader and test-giver brought out 100 cupcakes. Mrs Phillip J King said there was no way that a group of 7 was about to eat 100 cupcakes but she thought better of underestimating anyone’s capacity for cupcake consumption.Mrs Phillip J King said the book club members, ate the delicious peach crisp, ate a few of the 100 cupcakes and then were sent home with more, probably to make up for being made to take a test for a celebration. Mrs Phillip J King said that the member who was scheduled to host next month was not in attendance but had sent a note which alerted all to dates that would not work and dates that would work were the ones left over. According to Mrs. Phillip J King, next month John Henry Days will be discussed on September 18 in West Virginia, in the part that’s close to Pennsylvania.

Thank You Melissa, everything was delicious and it was such a great night to be on the roof. I’m attaching the quiz for those of you who couldn’t be with us. I wish I could attach cupcakes.I’ll bring your posters to Susan’s next month.

On this page I’ll talk about the book and save the rest of our 100th book celebration for another post. The state of North Carolina is allegedly represented in this novel and while I’ve not enough experience with North Carolina to know if that is true, it is quite certainly representative a small town America, where people generally know something about everyone in town and others make it their business to know everything. I thought the book captured some beautiful moments that might have passed us by; there are so many clever observations and the characters are mostly believable in all their eccentricity. The old preacher’s eulogy is just beautiful — I would love it if someday someone publicly remembers having danced with me — though they may have to remember a moment other than dancing — I’m a terrible dancer.
Most of us felt that some of the tangential explanations just went on as though the author was being paid by the word. Clearly the devil is in the details, but the retold stories were sometimes painfully unbridled.  Chris told me that just prior to receiving my email, she was hoping to never have to read the words Mrs. Phillip J King ever again! oops.