Our third virtual book club meeting took place on Tuesday, May 19, virtually hosted by Susan with technological hosting support by Chris. Susan’s home was festively decorated with the Jayber Crow cloth napkins displayed behind her framing the original art “Hope” from the book club calendar. (If I’m not jumping to conclusions, it was this effort to move her computer to focus in on the lovely display that made necessary a call to IT to restart all her computer settings.) All were in attendance (eventually) though Rosalie had a still photo of herself holding her place while she finished eating dinner. It had that vibe as if she wasn’t able to attend the Oscars.
The book was almost a unanimous hit with the group. As the 121st book the club has read together, it made the top ten list of our first ten years, coming in at #2. Sharon who wasn’t originally enamored by the book, has since purchased the audio version to see if she might find more appreciation for it; and Marcia who very much enjoyed it is considering reading it aloud with her husband Andrew as an evening activity. We appreciated the spiritual aspects of the book and I believe it was Mary who compared it to Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. Rosalie remarked that she had never taken so many notes on a book as she did for this one. Marcia was the second person to ask me how I knew we’d be in the middle of a pandemic when I chose this book about a man who lost both parents to the 1918 flu pandemic and I just told her she’d be better off staying inside during the third week of May next year. Linda first mentioned (and other small-towners agreed) that she enjoyed the familiarity of the names and small-town ways. Those of us who grew up without front porches and small town familiarity wondered how life would have been altered had they grown up with Port William-like surroundings.It was noted that Berry revisits this town and its inhabitants in other books and some of us expressed interest in further reading. There are nine more: The Memory of Old Jack, Hannah Coulter, Whitefoot, a Story From the Center of the World, Nathan Coulter, Remembering, A World Lost, A Place on Earth, A Place in Time and Andy Catlett: Early Travels. Most of agreed that it is a beautifully, as well as intelligently written book and was a sigh of relief from an exhausting world.
Some favorite quotes; (some mentioned, some just added here)
Clever expressions, small town in nature: “three-thirds drunk,” “from off,” “give it a lick and a promise,”
“Back there at the beginning, as I see now my life was all time and almost no memory… and now, nearing the end, I see that my life is almost entirely memory and very little time.”
“The squeak between living and not living is pretty tight.”
“They sat there as if not a man in Port William has ever paid for anything without taking off his shoe.”
“I knew that he had subtracted Troy Chatham’s talent as a basketball player from Troy Chatham, and had found not enough left over.”
“Where do dead soldiers die who are killed in battle? They die at home — in Port William and thousands of other little darkened places, in…houses like Miss Gladdie’s where The News comes, and everything on the tables and shelves is all of a sudden a relic and a reminder forever.”
“In Port William, more than anyplace else I had been, this religion that scorned the beauty and the goodness of this world was a puzzle for me.”
“I have always loved a window, especially an open one.”
“And there was no use thinking of that fluid, glistening instant that always seems, in looking back, to have come between what might have happened and what happened, when one might have made some little choice that would have changed forever the course of things.”
“There was never much room between what he said and what he thought.”
(like social media encounters today) “It was not a situation in which you would enjoy carrying on a serious argument with an idiot.”
“In this enduring lineage had been a kind of dignity, the dignity at least of knowing that the work you are doing must be done and that it does not begin and end with yourself.”
“Both sides in making war, agree to these deaths, this dying of young soldiers in their pride. And afterward it becomes possible to pity the suffering of both sides and to think of the lost, unfinished lives of boys who had grown up under hands laid with affection on their heads.”
“I was listening to myself with some interest, for I certainly had not thought it through.”
“The world doesn’t stop because you are in love or in mourning or in need of time to think. And so when I have thought I was in my story or in charge of it, I really have been only on the edge of it, carried along.”
Chris added these quotes:
But you could not be where I was without experiencing many such transformations. One of your customers, one of your neighbors (let us say), is a man known to be more or less a fool, a big talker, and one day he comes into your shop and you have heard and you see that he is dying even as he is standing there looking at you, and you can see in his eyes that (whether or not he admits it) he knows it, and all of a sudden everything is changed. You seem no longer to be standing together in the center of time. Now you ae on time’s edge, looking off into eternity. And this man, your foolish neighbor, your friend and brother, has shed somehow the laughter that has followed him through the world, and has assumed the dignity and the strangeness of a traveler departing forever.
About the cop who let Jayber cross the bridge during the flood: Some troublesome kindness was working in him. (I love the idea of troublesome kindness.)
The preachers were always young students from the seminary who wore, you might say, the mantle of power but not the mantle of knowledge. (Still makes me laugh)
About Alfred Pindle, at the dance: He trotted along rather quietly, with his eyes filmed over as if he heard an entirely different music far off. Before long, his girl began to have the limply resigned and submitted look of a small animal carried by a cat.
Right, well, if you’ve made it here, the next part of the meeting was our Ten Year Anniversary Celebration and I will include all of the lists as attached files. [For the two of you reading this on the website — please look for those lists in Ten Year Anniversary Celebration.] Our next meeting will be hosted by Chris to discuss At Swim – Two Birds and the actual or virtual meeting will take place on June 23.
Yours in ten years of great reading with great friends.
Teresa aka Fearless Leader
This is the art “Hope” from our 2020 calendar:
And here is the screenshot of our Zoom;
And the one below happened after Karen and Rosalie had already signed off. In response to a notion of something we didn’t have, Susan said “But we have alcohol.” I said “OK, let’s do that again, and this time everybody say it and start to fall off your chair at the end.” My sister Dodie will tell you, I love it when people buy into my nonsense.