December, 2018: Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving

(Book #104) In a quick and easy change of plans, I hosted the December meeting. As is tradition, everyone brought cookies to swap, but this year each of the girls brought an appetizer or wine or BOTH and we ate small bites while balancing little Christmas plates in our lap in the living room by the glow of the tree. We filled our plates once, got cozy, talked, then paused our discussion to fill the plates a second time.

Though the book was overshadowed by the appetizers and the cookies, we did find time to talk about it. Most of us agreed that we loved the book’s opening — the telling and retelling of how the parents met — what a lovely story it is and how dear it is that all the children take part in retelling it. Another aspect on which we seemed to agree was that the book began to lose our interest once in Europe and it wasn’t because of (SPOILER ALERT) what happens to the family on the flight over. That was beautifully written for quite significant impact. The sad circumstance of the new hotel and its occupants knocked previous optimism out of the story, but we did appreciate the way in which the characters rose up to a level of heroism at the end of their time in Vienna. We discussed Irving’s recurring motifs and how It would seem that some of those subjects might be limited to one appearance only: the dressmaker’s dummy in A Prayer for Owen Meany and The Hotel New Hampshire; the bear in Last Night in Twisted River and The Hotel New Hampshire; and vehicular fellatio in The World According to Garp and Last Night in Twisted River.  

After discussing Hotel New Hampshire each of us talked about our top three faves of the books we read this year. High on most of our lists, to our great surprise, was Lonesome Dove. Rosalie didn’t even want to read it but had to because she was hosting and found that she was thoroughly taken in. We joked about how our enjoyment ended after April because the other books on our lists of favorites were January’s To The Bright Edge of the World, February’s Housekeeping and March’s Animal Dreams. Honorable mentions went to The Stone Diaries, True North and John Henry Days. (I’m going to be better about taking notes this year because I’m trying to remember this from a distance of two months!)

I gave the girls their 2018 Christmas ornaments — maps of our paths across the US with rhinestones for each of our stops and a silver star for the state in which we hosted. It’s packed in the bin of Christmas ornaments in the cold, cold garage, so no picture of it today.

We traded our dozens and dozens of cookies and went on our way to our own holiday festivities. What wonderful appetizers, cookies, books, and friends! Aren’t we lucky? Merry Christmas, Teresa

Fictional Booksellers, 2016 The Christmas Ornament

Another year, another Christmas ornament. I had so much fun with the dinner tables last year, I decided to move on to other furniture and Fictional Booksellers required bookshelves. Each member received a bookshelf ornament with all twelve books on the shelves in the order that we read them. You can see in the pictures below the switch that happened between February and June. The book that the member hosted was removed from its position on the shelves up to the top of the bookshelf and was surrounded by miniatures that were part of their hosting. Susan’s had a cell phone and a teeny little business card for Chief Erasmus Ngozi Ezeji. Lynn’s had quilting magazines because she’d taken us on a tour of her home and showed us her quilting room. Sharon’s had a little lantern like the full size lantern she had on the serving table. Melissa’s bookshelf was shaped like a boat. Geri’s, of course, had a plate of Christmas cookies. Because I hosted two meetings the top of my bookshelf is a bit crowded with both books, a framed picture of my almost naked grandson for Hold Still and a Russian painting in which the original subject’s face has been covered with Stalin’s. A little tag on each read Merry Christmas from Fictional Booksellers, 2016.

Had I been thinking in just a little more detail, I could have put teeny little shelf-talkers on the shelves under each book naming which bookseller recommended each of the books and why! But that might be, you know, too much.

My Fictional Friends, 2015: The Christmas Ornament

This year I realized I had to restock my supply of wooden books that I use to make the ornaments and found the original vendor didn’t have them nor did any one else! I gave it some thought and decided to commemorate the incredible lengths the girls go to for the dinners served at our meetings. I started ordering wooden tables and miniature food.

All of the little tables assembled.
A close-up of the Thanksgiving dinner from We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.         There is a teeny book on each of the tables.

Fictional Cinema, 2017: The Christmas Ornament

This year’s ornament was yet another piece of furniture. We have a dining table, a bookshelf, and now a TV for the screening room and sadly a pretty thick one given the size of today’s flat screens. I had to make room enough on the inside for my recording device and I wanted enough room on the top to perch and item or two to represent the gathering. Each of the TVs had a tiny copy of the book on top, some had a teeny tiny version of the quiz, and as an example, mine had a bowl of potatoes for my mostly potato meal for Everything is Illuminated.

The red dot you can see on Jonathan’s hand is the special part of this ornament.

I thought I was going to record one of our favorite quotes from each book but somewhere around the holidays, I went a little crazy and recorded Christmas tunes with lyrics that told part of the story from each book.  When you press the red button mine sings to the tune of Over the River and Through the Woods:  “Everything is Illuminated as we search for Trachimbrod, Grandfather is blind, but he’s driving behind, a woman with boxes of things quite odd.”