September, 2019: Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles

The girls really surprised me tonight and though it has nothing to do with this book, I’m going to talk about it anyway. One of our members, Geri, has been working on a project with Lincoln Park Community Services as the head architect for a homeless shelter. At Geri’s suggestion, there are now bookshelves in the Drop-In Center filled with books donated by all of the women of Fictional Friends . During the ribbon cutting ceremony for the building, the Executive Director spoke of the community effort that had made the building possible and mentioned that our local bookclub had donated the library. On each of the books, is a bookplate which says that the book was donated by Fictional Friends and dedicates the beneficence to the book club’s founder, me. The residents and drop-ins to the center may take a book as their own, and our club will restock the shelves. All of this was done without my knowledge and Geri told me about it with pictures (taken by our photographer, Susan) in a birthday card given to me at this meeting. One further note about the shelter: Geri was honored for her design by inclusion in Say It Loud, a show for diverse designers. Now back to our book. Below is the email wrap-up.

(Book 113) Our discussion of Two Serious Ladies began with me taking no responsibility for its choice — saying I’d been surprised by the number of votes it received. A few people asked about the voting, so I have the official results here in front of me. I’d originally put the books in order of publication date, but abandoned the idea of voting for them within time period. The ballots were cast by selecting any 12 books from the whole list of 36 literary debuts. The 12 books with the highest votes were included on this year’s list. Two Serious Ladies received seven votes; if you disliked the book, you can’t blame Melissa, Chris, Marcia or me. And dislike it we did! We have all learned a very important lesson about the descriptor avant-garde. We thought it funny that the book seemed to have promise at the outset, when as a child, Christina Goering suggested a game of “I forgive you for all your sins.” After that it just wandered aimlessly with women accepting houseguests of every stripe, napping with prostitutes, quarreling about accommodations in Panama, and looking for souvenirs inscribed with Hotel Washington. (Well, that last bit, I understood, I would have wanted that too.) It was noted that on page 135, Miss Gamelon tells Miss Goering “you can never sit down for more than 5 minutes with out introducing something weird into the conversation.” This summed the book for most of us. Rosalie said the author had some good lines, but couldn’t find a plot to make them work. Chris talked about how hard Claire Messud worked on her Two Serious Ladies term paper, (the book’s introduction) without shining any particular light or offering any explanation of the book’s chaos. Luckily, Geri and her bartender Linda, were there to save us with good stiff drinks of gin; Gin Bucks helped assuage the confusion. We moved into the dining room where we were treated to a delicious meal of coq au vin, served with an optional bacon garnish. Those with bacon allergies, could chose not to add the garnish. The coq au vin was accompanied by mashed potatoes and a crusty bread. The best part of the night however, arrived with a crème brûlée cake decorated with shards of caramelized sugar. Heaven. There was also a flourless chocolate cake and I’m remembering the leftovers of both are in my fridge. I’ll be right back. Then came my birthday present! Geri gave me a card with Susan’s photographs of a library of books the girls donated to the Lincoln Park Community Services shelter at 1521 Sedgwick. Each of the books has a bookplate, designed by my Frances, indicating the books were donated by Fictional Friends in honor of their founder. I am so honored (and a little nervous that this was my peak and it’s all downhill from here.) Thank you all, so much.
We discussed other books we’ve been reading and gave good recs to:

The Fire Blossom by Sarah Lark (Rosalie)

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehesi Coates (Sharon)

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney (Teresa)

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (Linda and Teresa)

Our next meeting will take place on Tuesday, October 15 to discuss Geek Love. Sharon has given us all her special dispensation to forego reading the book, which she tried to read before deeming it psychological warfare.