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Monday, February 24, 2014

Forests, Friends, Trees, Book Clubs & One Wife

Though I consider myself a discerning reader, sometimes a conversation about a book brings into focus how easy it is to miss the forest for the trees. If you relate to this, please comment here or communicate with me offline.

My most recent experiences have centered on "The Marriage Plot" (2011) by Jeffrey Eugenides and "A Constellation Of Vital Phenomena" (2013) by Anthony Marra. I read both novels soon after their release. With the Eugenides' book, I didn't realize how narrowly I'd read it until a long conversation with my wife, who finished it weeks ago. Taken as a whole, both of us were unsure about the book for different reasons; our conversation included me reading aloud my book journal entry, now almost three years old. Hearing my own words in combination with her insights helped me see larger themes I'd missed. Not surprisingly, it also deepened my appreciation for the novel.

My more recent conversation about "A Constellation..." was not as in depth. But because this friend's insights about other books have frequently dazzled me, I was leaning in as she spoke. And once again I recognized how one author device of Marra's, annoying as it may have been to me, had temporarily blinded me from seeing the large and exquisite canvas he'd painted. I've heard several times that these "aha" moments are among the reasons people enjoy book clubs. Though neither of these conversations occurred in that setting, I share that viewpoint. Now if every book club meeting I attended had all readers as discerning as my wife and my friend, it's possible I'd miss fewer forests.