Apr 27, 2008

Back to Waco, by George!

George had warned us that the food theme for Steve Martin’s memoir would be geographic, so none of us was expecting any funny stuff. Last Tuesday, he delivered on his promise, and served up pulled pork and slaw right out of Martin’s hometown of Waco, Texas. I’m not sure where Stephanie’s chocolate-laced pecan pie hailed from, but I’m sure Steve Martin would have approved.

In my sampling afterwards, I heard universal acclaim for the pulled pork. Indeed, Garth fell off his vegetarian wagon in order to partake! For our next meeting, Stan may have to put him on a diet of carrots and pureed bitterroot.

Our acknowledgments would not be complete without commenting on the three ferocious canines that greeted us at the door. In particular, we were absorbed by the Pug Gymnastics orchestrated by Stephanie in the back yard. An appearance on David Letterman is imminent, I'm sure.

The Book
I’ll confess that I groaned when we rejected Cormac McCarthy in favor of Steve Martin’s sawed-off memoir. My bad attitude persisted as I read the book and found myself underwhelmed. I was heartened to discover that most of you felt the same way, if for different reasons.

We were all impressed by Martin’s exposition. Stan summed up our feelings when he described Martin as a fine technician. His prose was carefully wrought and he took us through the 1960’s and 1970’s with a clear sense of direction. But while we got an A-to-Z recitation of what it required for Martin to develop into an accomplished comedian, the personal Steve Martin was never on full display. Even his callow years at Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm were less about the wonder of growing up and more about specific magic tricks, his stagecraft, and a few of his fellow travelers. To his credit, George fell on his sword and apologized for proposing this pleasant diversion from our normally meaty fare (again, glad to have you aboard, Garth).

Steve Martin had his defenders, though. Chief among them were Jack and Stan, who both admitted that their admiration for Martin determined their rating for the book (each an 8). Notwithstanding these victims of Martin’s cult of personality, our overall rating was a middling 5.8 (which includes Jeff’s absentee vote of 6).

Our dinner discussion was bracketed by viewing clips from Martin’s Tonight Show and his SNL appearances. Thanks to Glenn and Tom for the content, and to Larry for bringing a phonograph, which proved so unnecessary in this age of Youtube and digital downloads.

Next Up
For our next selection, Stan offered up two wildly different products of the counterculture era: Dickey’s Deliverance and the Autobiography of Malcolm X. Neither got us too excited, but his third choice did. We picked Blindness by Jose Saramago, a past winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. When we meet next at Stan’s, let’s come in dark glasses and consider what it means to live in a sightless world.


  1. ManBookers- Sounds like your Steve Martin bio discussion went well, maybe better than the book! That happens sometimes when a so-so book can still generate some good talk, and it's *always* worth meeting!

    I don't think you could have gone wrong with any of your three choices, but *Blindness* will generate more discussion than either of the other two. Saramago is a wonderful writer who really should be more widely known in the US. He poses lots and lots of thought-provoking questions and situations without being preachy or moralistic. I am already looking forward to your May meeting report.

    The Great Apes selected these titles for the coming months: May The Willow Field, William Kitteredge (a Montana set novel); June Driving Mr Albert (Einstein) and the author escapes me at the moment; July Master and Margarita (a Russian cult classic); Aug/Sept The Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz (recent Pulitzer winner); and Oct The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chandler.

    The October meeting will be here in Chicago and the Chandler book is Daley's most recent One Book One Chicago pick.

    Maybe one month both groups could read the same title and we could do some sort of cyber discussion via emails or the blog. Not sure how we'd share the food and drink, but we could share the discussion!

  2. Jeff, thanks for the insight on Saramago and for the list of upcoming Great Apes titles. You have some real gems on that list. We'll see if we can ever coordinate on the same book and month. Could be an interesting discussion, indeed.

  3. I should have mentioned that George also read his other proposed selections (No Country for Old Men and A Long Way Gone)and he told us that No Country would have been a superb choice. Perhaps another time?

  4. AnonymousMay 06, 2008

    For discussion purposes A Long Way Gone would be a good book. While the wrting is not as sharp, the content and subject matter is strong. Just prior to reading A Long Way Gone I also researched the information which said the story could not have happened as it did based on time frames, ages, etc... Still, with what is going on around the world today it opens up insights for thought.


  5. Two things: as strong as the Coen brothers movie is of NCFOM, the novel is even stronger. You guys cannot go wrong choosing it, or choosing any Cormac McCarthy novel really. The best McCarthy (IMHO) is Blood Meridian, but beware as it's also the toughest to read, then make sense of. I've made the journey with the Judge three times and feel like I've just begun to plumb the depths of all that McCarthy has packed into that novel. But the effort pays off in spades; I've done BM with two book groups and both times it rated a unanimous thumbs up.

    Second, I agree w/ George about The Long Way Gone, powerful topic and worth the read and discussion, but chronologically flawed with only so-so writing. A better book that covers the same ground is Dave Eggers, What is the What. One of the Apes pitches it every time we toss possible picks around, and although it hasn't been chosen yet I predict it will be. Maybe it'll be our first joint Man Book Club/Great Apes read!

    Great being in touch with fellow readers. Any initial insights into the Saramago book yet? Best wishes to all!

  6. I've got three recommended choices for June reading. Since we're heading into the busy summer season, I've chosen 3 relatively short books, all in the 200+- page range (you're welcome in advance). These could be easily read on the beach.

    My first choice, and the one I hope the group will choose, is The Spectator Bird by Wallace Stegner. It won the National Book Award. Stegner is one of my favorite authors. Angle of Repose is one of my all time favorites, but it exceeds the 500 page limit. I read Spectator Bird about 20 years ago and would look forward to re-reading.

    My other choices are: The Bushwacked Piano by Thomas McGuane (winner of the Richar and Hilda Rosenthal Foundation Award), a light-hearted, sad/funny book that is fun to read.

    Finally, my other suggestion is The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, a trove of Vietnam war related accounts (fictional) on a handful of veterans that are very powerful.

    Amazon has info on all of these. See you Tuesday.