Book club overload

My current book shelf, literally

This spring and summer I’ve spent a lot of time reading some of my dad’s favorite authors, most notably Ken Kesey and Kurt Vonnegut — the True Great American Authors, as he calls them. These guys wrote the books my dad often quotes and references, and has done my whole life, and now I’m taking the time to read them. When I was home last, he and I talked about them all, gossiping about them like we were all friends, and it turns out he’s had some strange brushes with some of them in his life.

At a Dylan concert, on Dylan’s 35th birthday, my dad was there to hear Allen Ginsberg read a poem he wrote for the occasion on stage. He heard Vonnegut speak at Muskingum, where I later went to college. He knocked on Ken Kesey’s front door while on vacation with my mom — no one was home, but he saw that famous 1939 International Harvester bus in the backyard.

He and I talked about who would be considered the Great American Authors of today, 20 years from now. He wasn’t too convinced it would be anybody, but I still have hopes for David Foster Wallace and Dave Eggers, and I’m sure loads of others. We’re just too close to it all now, that’s all. There’s still great literature being written, and the novel is not dead.

Right now, in the vein of all those authors my dad loves, I’m reading “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” by Tom Wolfe, who followed Kesey around for a while with his band of Merry Pranksters. It’s a fascinating read, although I can safely say it doesn’t make me feel compelled to try LSD any time soon.

I’ve also recently joined a second book club, because I guess I just didn’t have enough going on. It’s with my co-workers and we’re reading “A Visit From The Goon Squad” as our first book. I know absolutely nothing about it but it’s supposed to be good.

The other book club is my friend Sarah’s, which I joined in May. So far we’ve read an eclectic collection, from “Peter Pan” to a Joyce Carol Oates novel to Erik Lawson’s latest, although I had to miss that meeting in order to go see the new Harry Potter movie with work friends. Shameless, I know. This month’s book is “Norweigan Wood,” and I better start it soon because our next meeting is in a week and a half. This club is full of interesting young women who select a wide range of books, including last December’s tongue-in-cheek choice in “The Bell Jar.” Since teaming up to read that in the dead of winter in Chicago didn’t make them all want to skip book club and kill themselves instead, I think it speaks to both our group’s dedication and their high enjoyability to be around.

Christina and I have talked about starting a house book club; she’s been reading a lot of Tom Robbins these days, although at an airport recently she accidentally picked up the new Nicholas Sparks book, believing it to be Nick Hornby’s latest. She was beginning to feel thoroughly let down until she realized her mistake, but I was pretty entertained when she told me about it — I laughed, imagining her hanging on, just waiting for the book to get interesting.

So for now, I’ve got a full book shelf and about two weeks to get through it. Tom Wolfe may have to take a back seat for a bit but I plan on getting back to him soon. What are you reading these days?

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