Dec 24, 2007

Men at the Movies

Last night’s outing to see Into the Wild let us appreciate 1) the dinner we ate beforehand, and 2) the self-restraint that tempers our most anti-social impulses. Larry’s son, Eric, commented afterwards that he felt Chris McCandless “did it for others.” As I drove away I found myself in agreement with Eric, which is not how I felt after reading the book. Sean Penn’s film makes McCandless into more of a reactionary (against family) than a true soloist. So, Eric, take Garth's and John's advice and remember to love your father after you leave home!

The movie was nicely unsettling, if a little long at 2 1/2 hours. Peter felt the movie lagged in the middle as it hewed too closely to Krakauer's account. But John disagreed (easy for him with his large capacity bladder). We all seemed to like the Eddie Vedder soundtrack. Just the right haunting notes and aching melodies for a (non) survival story like this.

It’s too bad that two of our group showed up for beverages but skipped the main event. Jeff, at least, had proof that he was on a mission: his spreadsheet would have made Santa blush! But Roy’s protests were unpersuasive. His shopping story dissolved into sheer homophobia when he adamantly refused to be seen watching movies with other men.

But we reserve most of our opprobrium for Dan, who promised us free drinks but wouldn't join us out of a sense of obligation to his wife AND his in-laws! Dan, for the sake of half our species, we ask that you turn in your man card NOW!

The evening was a nice respite from the craziness of the holidays. Tom, we missed you but thanks again for the Krakauer recommendation.

Dec 22, 2007

I mean, really, do we care?

We received the following message from a woman who discovered our website and evidently felt the need to share. Unlike the Great Apes, whose perspective is similar to ours, this woman’s group (I’ve removed the name) has nothing in common with MBC except a relaxed attitude towards the rules of grammar and a purported distaste for chick lit. There's much to mine from this email, but it’s the guilelessness of the message that I find most interesting….

"Very much enjoyed your interview with info about your group, also your website. We have a library sponsored mixed gender book club, also try to avoid chick lit, but try to keep books a bit shorter. Also we order copies from state libraries, so books have to have been popular enough for enough copies as we have about 35 members, we have two meeting dates and members can pick when they want to attend. As we meet at the library during library hours our beverages are unfortunately limited to coffee and soda, sounds like a bit of lubrication is good for discussion!"

In case other women book clubbers feel a similar urge to correspond with us, remember that we're men with short attention spans. Unless you're funny, we're not likely to respond...and we might even make fun of you!

Dec 17, 2007

Tortilla Curtain has me reading and thinking

OK, I haven't yet finished this novel, but I'm captivated and anxious at the same time. The social (and economic) friction produced by our current immigration policies is painfully evoked in Tortilla Curtain. This 12-year old story could have been written about today's climate in Marin County.

As everyone and everything competes for our charity this time of year, I hope this book encourages our empathy for the guys shuffling around the street corners on Anderson Drive.

Dec 12, 2007

Dan IS the Man!

Last night Dan officially violated Rule One in the MBC Protocol Handbook, which reads: “Thou Shalt Not Discourage Thy Successor Host.” With his extensive German menu—replete with spatzle, sauerbraten, bratwurst (which tasted deliciously free of those tasteless meal byproducts acceptable in Europe), and “German” chocolate cake—and his revised home d├ęcor (Steinbeck’s Rocinante was a poor relation to Dan’s side-entry ManLand), Dan has set an impossible standard for all who follow. (Tom, start preparing!) Thanks to Dan’s zealousness, Rule Two has now been enacted and reads: “He Who Violates Rule One Shall Immediately Repeat as Host.”

We thank Dan for his hospitality and his generosity. Our visions of Rocinante will forever include two TV screens, a bar, and two sets of rocking loge seats. And we thank Dean for helping with the preparations after Dan speared his left orbital bone on a tomato post.

We also acknowledge the arrival of Armando, who admitted to knowing Tom’s wife more than 30 years ago, which is about when our other newbie, Jeff, was born. Welcome to you both! (And note to you both: at Man Book Club, we don’t mention other men’s wives during our meetings because for 2-3 hours each month, in the fullness of our fellowship, we pretend they don’t exist.)

The Book:
Our run around the table produced a wide variety of commentary on Travels With Charley. There were those who found it refreshing, prophetic, nostalgic, and generally enjoyable; there were also those (slightly in the majority) who felt a little cheated by Steinbeck. With his immense talents, he used this travelogue to share more rants than insights. He was preoccupied with the Bomb, trash, migration, uncommunicative Yankees, and his inability to read a map when entering cities of any size. (And, according to Roy, he was a complete misanthrope all the way to Chicago…at which point Roy put down the book. Way to give a Nobel Prize winner your attention, Roy!) But, as several of us noted, his final 30 pages set aside the ramblings of an older Steinbeck and eloquently attacked the racist tumult he encountered on his trip through the South. We rated this work a 6.1, a figure that would have been slightly lower had Stan not shamefacedly admitted to giving “any” book at least a 5. (And Stan had the nerve to criticize the integrity of our rating system!)

The Book Exchange:
Thanks to all who brought books to exchange and special thanks to Dan for tossing in a couple extras to fill the gaps. There were some wonderful titles on display and if it weren’t so chaotic we might have agreed with Garth’s suggestion that we simply read our newfound treasures and share the results in January. (Actually, on principle, we would never have agreed with Garth, but his suggestion was certainly novel…and, yes, pun intended.)

Next Up:
Tom proposed both of Krakauer’s “Into…” books, which unfortunately had been read by a solid majority of those present. He also proposed Of Mice and Men and The Kite Runner. The former was too much Steinbeck too soon, and the latter had also been read by many. When Tortilla Curtain was unwrapped by Larry, a consensus emerged that it was time for T.C. Boyle, the 1988 PEN/Faulkner winner and a favorite of book groups across the country ever since he stopped using his impossible middle name.

Dec 10, 2007

The Great Apes Weigh In

We received the following email from Jeff Potter, who was kind enough to share some background on his men-only book group, The Great Apes:

"Just found your website and wanted to let you know you're not alone . . . I've been part of an 8-11 member all guy (no chicks, no chick authors) book group, The Great Apes (picked the name after book #8 Tarzan!) in Ft Collins, CO since September 1994. We've read 130 plus books and celebrate each milestone with some special outing/event/tshirt/mug . . . .

"Highlight of my life outside of my family for sure. Your group therapy comment rings true with us all and the book group has probably saved each of us $1000 in shrink bills as we've had members become dads, granddads, married again, single again . . .our ages currently range from 63 or 64 down to 36. It's been "never a dull moment" for thirteen plus years.

"Favorite reads still remain TC Boyle's Water Music, Donleavy's The Ginger Man, Ambrose's Undaunted Courage, The Earth is Enough by Harry Middleton, all Cormac McCarthy but especially The Road (which we discussed at our annual January Breckenridge cabin outing), . . .next up Russo's Bridge of Sighs for Jan and Owen Wister's The Virginian for Feb. Even though we have a "no chick author" rule it's been broken twice: once when Dorothy Johnson's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence slipped through in a western short story collection, and Elizabeth Gilbert's The Last American Man picked on title alone . . .but the discussion was great.

"We're not organized enough to have a website, but our back and forth emails read about like your blog entries!"

Thanks, Jeff!

Dec 4, 2007

Travels with Charley

I hope you all enjoyed Steinbeck's exciting travels across the States.
As you are all aware Dec. 11th ,7pm, 181 San Marino.
Please enter through the side gate also known as "Dean's Gate" It is on the left hand side of the house, closest to Dean's driveway, hence the name. This will lead you into the Rocinante (the garage). Here we will enjoy libations of Applejack & Stein-lager/Beck s chasers. The food will be some nice hearty German fare. I'll be sure to allow my dogs to run around to keep us in the moment.

If anyone forgets a book for the exchange, I could donate a Penthouse forum or "The History of Salt".

Be sure to RSVP