Aug 13, 2009

Another Pulitzer Evening at Larry's


Acknowledgments
First, my apologies for this tardy summary. Larry’s fine hospitality on July 28 deserves better than this late—and abbreviated—post about an otherwise delightful evening. But, with summer hard at hand, my attention has been elsewhere.

The first time Larry hosted MBC, it was on a winter evening and we drank corn liquor, ate a hearty stew, and talked about the Battle of Gettysburg. This occasion could not have been more different. Seated outside and overlooking Peacock’s 12th fairway, we were served a delicious paella followed by Larry’s homemade burnt sugar ice cream (thank you for the recipe, Larry!). While Larry’s menu tacitly acknowledged the colonial history of the Dominican Republic, Paul’s beer selection was less subtle. The Oskar Blues label reminded us that Oscar’s trajectory was more tragedy than triumph.

Our numbers were thinner than usual, but Jack’s return more than made up for it. It was also a pleasure to have our friend and neighbor, Tony, join us as a guest. However, with his Oscar Award in one hand and his passel of advanced degrees in the other, he was almost as intimidating as our resident rocket scientist, Glenn (whose absence for back surgery was duly noted and mourned).

The Book
Since this post is meant to be short, I’ll cut to the chase. Diaz’ novel about a multi-generational immigrant family living in New Jersey but forever rooted in the Dominican Republic was profoundly polarizing. Stan sung its praises and gave it a 10; Dan flinched and graded it a 3. We would have ignored Dan’s complaints (as he didn't finish the book), but they were largely mirrored by George, our Thoughtful Republican, whose vote was a 4. Even with Doug, Larry, and John celebrating the book’s virtues, we couldn’t develop a consensus rating above 7.1.

Whether it was the language (tough for the monolinguists), the cultural and political asides (the footnotes were clever, if distracting), the author’s in-jokes (enough geek content to last a lifetime), or simply the herky-jerky narrative quality (confusing POV shifts), the book was a hard read for some. And yet the book was both a fascinating cultural statement (who knew the DR was so interesting?) and a suspenseful narrative (even if Oscar's finale was like a beautiful slow-motion trainwreck). Paul sidestepped all of this and repeated the common observations he made about the last several books we’ve read. To his thinking, we can’t seem to avoid deeply flawed misogynists!

Next Up
We were given and agreed to read Ollestad’s Crazy for the Storm during August. We’re also set to discuss Jess Winfield’s My Name is Will when we meet next at Dan’s on September 8. Let’s see if George’s prognostication comes true and Blindness is finally dislodged from the top of our rankings.

3 comments:

Dan said...

After reading Crazy for the Storm, I became intrigued with Norm Sr and decided to read Inside the FBI. Though dated, I found it to be an interesting read so if anyone would like to borrow it before I return it back to the library give me a holler. The copy is missing 1 page and it probably is the missing link to the Kennedy assassination.

DDF said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DDF said...

I don't know why the message above was posted by someone other than me but due to a lack of interest the book was returned to the library a well before the Aug 13th post.

And further more it wasn't I that "flinched".