Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Book Club

We showed up with DAVID COPPERFIELDS in book bags and purses. The leader’s library book was so thick it kept falling off her lap and emitted a smell of mildew. She balanced it on her head, laughing.

“Here. Use mine,” another friend said, swapping books efficiently.

We had library books, Penguins, Modern Library, and B&N classics. The Penguin owners tended to be the most discursive. Two of us were silent during the discussion. Like me, the other mute hadn’t finished the book. Both of us had B&N classics. Both of us had run out to buy it at the last minute.

What do you say when you haven’t finished DAVID COPPERFIELD? Reading the book is a requisite for book groups. You whisper in secret to the other silent member. She shrugs. She doesn’t care much. But you’ve never come unprepared. You drink your tea or energy drink or whatever the hell your health nut friend is serving and help yourself to a large serving of non-fat, non-dairy, (non) cake. You even ask a question. Everybody is supposed to ask a question. You base yours on a quote from the introduction of your Riverside.

“ George Orwell said that when he first began reading DAVID COPPERFIELD at age 9 he thought it was written 'by a child.”' What narrative trick (trick?) makes this novel believable to all of us?”

I got this quote from the intro to my old Riverside copy. And the B&N y even had questions at the back, so I nudged my friend and she was able to ask one wildly at random.

Since this book is well-beloved to me, read and reread by me many times, even though i didn’t finish it for Book Club Monday, you should read it as a requisite for life. David doesn’t see people as they are; he sees them as they present themselves. This is the genius of it. Dickens’s wit is never cruel, and his rhetorical devices and periodic sentences elegant: but it his characterization you always remember, even whe's he's thin on plot: he describes clownish, adorable characters like Peggoty and the Micawbers so as to make them credible and shows how the efforts of good, innocent people work hard to screen the innocent David and themselves from bad influences.

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