Saturday rambling

There are a number of posts I’d like to write soon, including one on a surprisingly beautiful Wallace Stevens poem (surprising because I thought the poem’s title was one of the more ridiculous titles I’ve ever heard — more on that later) and one on Samuel Beckett’s play Endgame, which I recently read for class and which is wonderfully strange. But I’m in a mood to write something rambling and disconnected instead of a more focused post, so that’s what you’ll get.

I spent a lovely evening in Manhattan yesterday with a fabulous group of bloggers (and one fabulous woman who unfortunately doesn’t blog); you’ll find them at Telecommuter Talk, Musings from the Sofa, ZoesMom, and The Reading Nook. Have I mentioned before how much blogging has enriched my life? Well, it has. All of these people, and quite a few others besides, I’ve met because of blogging. We had fun traipsing around from bar to restaurant to bar, celebrating Becky’s impressive new job and drinking unbelievably overpriced cocktails. That’s Manhattan for you — fun but expensive.

In the train on the way to the city, I discovered to my horror that the book I chose for one of my reading groups is terrible. I didn’t choose it all on my own, actually; it was one of three books I selected that everyone else voted on, but still I’m instrumental in the choice, and now I feel guilty. I can see why one of the group’s members was noncommittal in her reaction to it, perhaps not wanting to offend me. Hobgoblin has yet to pick it up, but when he does, I’m looking forward to the conversation in which we mock it mercilessly.

Okay, now I’m a little afraid to mention what book it is, just in case the author googles himself and finds my unkind comments. But — oh, well. It’s Eric Wilson’s book Against Happiness, a book I’d heard some bad things about but also some good things, and so was prepared to like, if possible. It does exactly what the title says — argues against America’s obsession with the pursuit of happiness. This is fine in itself, but the way he makes the argument is the trouble … but more later, when I’ve actually finished the book and can write a proper review.

Have you had the experience of choosing a reading group book that everybody hates? Did it feel terrible? (I may be in luck though — perhaps the other members won’t agree with me …)

Today I went on a 3 1/2 hour ride, heading out to the Housatonic Hills race course to practice climbing all those hills; it was in the mid-60s and dry, pretty much perfect bike riding weather. All the way around the race course, though, I remembered what it’s like to race up those hills, and it filled me with dread. There’s nothing worse than finding yourself at the bottom of a steep hill with your heart rate already maxed out, chasing a pack of riders so as not to get dropped and hoping that you don’t fall over from exhaustion. I have this experience to look forward to in June …

20 Comments

Filed under Blogging, Books, Cycling, Life, Nonfiction, Reading

20 responses to “Saturday rambling

  1. Back in my theater days I portrayed Nell in my college’s production of Endgame – truly one of the most challenging parts I’ve ever played.
    I am so jealous of your night out with such great bloggers – you must have had a wonderful time.
    I thought of you, by the way, after reading a recent article about the difficulties of training for triathalons in the NYTimes by Gina Kolata…it was in Thursday’s style section,

  2. toujoursjacques

    I can’t wait to read your thoughts on the Stevens’ poem, and I’m so curious to find out which one’s title seems ridiculous to you. I can think of a couple that might qualify. :) Also, I love Samuel Beckett, and particularly Endgame, which as you say is wonderfully strange. But I go for that sort of play. I’ve seen Endgame performed three times and quite differently each time…all were great experiences!

  3. Wish I could have stayed out longer with all of you last night. Yes, I once had the experience of recommending a book club book that everyone hated. It was Wallace Stegner’s CROSSING TO SAFETY, a book that we’d all loved and had a great discussion about in a previous group. Most of the members of this different group (except for Bob, one other woman, and I) all hated it. One of them said she couldn’t relate to the book at all in any way, which I found almost impossible to believe. Oh well…Don’t think I’ve ever chosen a book that I hated, though.

  4. I’m looking forward to your review of “Against Happiness.” I was completely taken with the premise and so expected to love it, but alas no. I found the prose to be so peculiarly overwrought that so far I haven’t been able to bring myself to finish it, slim volume though it is.

  5. If everyone in the book club hates the book, it might mean there’s going to be agreement. You guys can talk about why you hate it.

    Even this can be a subject for conversation. We often have fun making fun of books we hate.

    Sounds like you guys had fun in Manhattan. Very Sex and the City. :)

  6. Very interested to know what you’ll say about Endgame! And as for choosing a book you don’t like, well, there may be others who really appreciate it. I always feel a bit bad if I’ve recommended a book because I loved it only to find the other reader hasn’t got on with it at all. There’s no accounting ever for the taste of others! ;)

  7. I should get over my mental block and try Beckett one of these days, right? I can’t seem to escape the man. ;)

    I remember on my first time out in Slaves of Golconda I had the honour of choosing the Hardwick novel and at least half of the readers were unimpressed with it. A bit ouchy but they were so nice over it I recovered. :D

  8. cabegley

    In my book club, some of our best discussions have been when everyone hates the book. I think it’s a lot easier to talk about why you hate a book than why you love it.

    Chris

  9. Hi there, like your blog. Rambling and focused at the same time. I’m intrigued to know why you dislike the Wilson book so much and I think it will probably make for a good discussion.

  10. I’m looking forward to your post on Stevens’s poem. And yes, I’ve chosen a book everyone in my book group hated, including me. But it provoked fabulous debate, so I didn’t feel so badly afterwards. Also, I think it’s nice to try to reach out and read things we don’t know so much about going in, so I’ve accepted the risk that the book will be terrible :)

    How lovely that you met up with your blogging friends in Manhattan. Have to say, I’m envious!

  11. musingsfromthesofa

    I am still a bit stunned at the price of the cocktails. Ah well.
    I have chosen books that everyone else has hated, I think, but it can make for a good discussion. I think it’s much worse if you love the book but everyone else hates it!
    Have yet to read any Beckett. I suspect my reaction would be ‘Huh?’

  12. Sounds like you had a nice time out. And don;t worry about picking a book no one ends up liking, everyone picks a stinker for book group at least once. Besides, it will give the group something to tease you about well into the future :)

  13. It was great meeting you on Friday! I also had a good night — despite the price of the cocktails.

    I recently had the honor of choosing a book club book that everyone really hated. I felt badly about it too, but ultimately if the book sounded appealing how else can you discover if it is truly good or bad without reading it? (My bomb book was PopCo.)

  14. Oh yes! The very first book I chose for the reading group a friend and I had just started sank like a lead balloon. It was Tracy Chevalier’s ‘Falling Angels’, chosen on the strength of ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’. It taught me never to suggest something I haven’t already read.

  15. I had Against Happiness on my desk at work until I read this–it’s now on a reshelve cart. I may eventually read it since it’s short and sometimes it’s fun to mock a book and because I’m friends with someone who knows the author.

  16. Courtney — oh, how very cool that you played Nell! What a wonderful experience that must have been. I really, really, really want to see the play in performance!

    TJ — oh, I’m jealous that you saw the play three times! I go for that sort of play too. And Stevens can be quite odd, can’t he? I’ve got the Stevens post up now, by the way.

    Emily — I’ve never read Crossing to Safety, but based on what you say about it, I’m guessing I would like it. Lucky me for having chosen a book I myself hate!

    Kate — I finished it last night, and it was a struggle, all the way through. Overwrought is exactly the right word for it … a review will be coming soon!

    Dark Orpheus — yes, it is fun to talk about why we hate something; I’m imagining it will be an interesting conversation … and yeah, I suppose it was very Sex and the City, except that me being involved in anything Sex and the Cityish is too bizarre to contemplate …

    Litlove — I’m certainly curious to hear what the others think; they might not as sensitive about the same things I am. I’ll certainly report on the meeting!

    Imani — I’m glad you recovered from the Slaves of Golconda choice — it really was interesting to think about it, even if not everyone liked it. And yeah, definitely read Beckett. I’d love to hear what you think. I desperately need to read one of his novels.

    Chris — I think you’re right that it’s easier to talk about what we don’t like — it can be more interesting too.

    Bluepete — thank you! I’ll post on the book in the next week or so with more details. I might wait until after the book group meeting to report what everyone thought.

    Gentle Reader — I like taking risks too — or at least I like the idea of taking risks, which means I have to be willing to read bad books now and then. Or at least start them. Thank God this one was short!

    Musings — oh, yes, if I loved it and everyone hated it I might feel a little silly, as though I were missing something or reading badly. Funny how disliking something can appear to be smarter than liking something, even though it isn’t necessarily.

    Stefanie — you’re right, it has to happen sooner or later! Maybe I’ll stick with something I know next time though … :)

    Zoesmom — great to meet you too! Oh, I’ve got PopCo on my shelves. Did you hate it too? And no, you can’t really know ahead of time, unless you read it first.

    Ann — that’s a good idea, although I like the idea of branching out too, but perhaps book groups aren’t the place to do it. I remember hearing some bad things about Falling Angels — but how were you to know?

    Susan — oh, interesting that you have a connection to the author. Hobgoblin and I are both surprised he’s an English professor, because the book seems so badly written …

  17. Lucky you to live close enough to hang out with blogger friends–that sounds like so much fun. And I’ve also ‘virtually’ met so many nice people as well! I think the book you chose sounds really interesting, but reading it may be something else entirely. Good luck with it. I always have a great fear I’ll choose something everyone else will hate, too! But if you all feel the same, perhaps it won’t be as bad…

  18. How wonderful that you’ve gotten to meet up with blogging friends. I’m very jealous :)
    And, um, yes I’ve been guilty of suggesting books for book group and which no one liked. Luckily my book group people were nice and never held that against me. ha. Actually, sometimes the worst books have had some of the most engaging discussions so you never know!

  19. Danielle — the book does sound interesting, doesn’t it? But still, I can’t recommend it. I’ve finished it now, and it hasn’t gotten any better …

    Iliana — we’ll see how the discussion goes with this one — it could be fun!

  20. Pingback: Against Against Happiness « Of Books and Bicycles

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