An Explanation

I owe you an apology. I should not have thrown that first post out into the void without some explanation of its origin and significance. So, here goes.

I belong to a neighborhood book club. Thanatopsis, (yes, the club has a name–it also has T-Shirts, but that’s another story) was formed in 1984 and in the thirty-four years since has met once a month to discuss books. From the beginning Thanatopsis has operated on a six month calendar. Each six months a schedule of books to be read is put together and members of the club volunteer to host meetings and to lead discussions. That obviously requires some coordination and the person charged with that coordination has, for reasons lost in the mists of time, been referred to as “The Girl.” The Girl is also tasked with reminding members of upcoming meetings.

My wife was invited to join Thanatopsis shortly after we moved into the neighborhood in 1986. A few years later I expressed interest in attending and was invited to participate as the token male because while no rule exists regarding the sex of the members and men have been invited to become part of the club from time to time I am the only man foolish or brave enough to join the group. My involvement over the years has been spotty owing to work and other commitments; my wife has been a faithful attendee. Since my retirement four and a half years ago (ah, maybe the subject of another post) I have attended regularly. A year or so after my retirement, the member who was acting as The Girl expressed a desire to move on from that position. As I was retired and secure in my masculinity (toxic though it may be), I volunteered to become The Girl.

So every month I send out reminders of upcoming meetings and occasionally provide other information. I try to amuse myself when writing the reminders. I’m gratified when I’m able to amuse others as well.

My first post was the most recent reminder. It was more involved than most.

Book Club Announcement–A Gentleman In Sandy

For my inaugural post I thought I’d post my most recent announcement for Thanatopsis. We recently read A Gentleman in Moscow. It was thoroughly enjoyable and I wish I had written it. Herewith the announcement for our meeting of May 29.


Bounding up the stairs two at a time with an alacrity and energy belying his sixty two years, he cleared the last three with a leap, alighting with feline grace in the dining room inches from the table. Years ago and half a continent away, that table had adorned his childhood home and even now evoked piquant recollections of convivial meals—ricotta cheese pancakes, veal parmesan, tuna casseroles, original joe’s. The table’s craftsman, cunningly working in teak and eschewing a pedestrian round, square or oblong configuration had instead, employing the golden ratios, wrought it in a simple, stunning oval. At first blush appearing to comfortably accommodate six, the table, reflecting the craftsman’s exquisite skill, was fashioned in two separate halves that when slid apart along cleverly placed hidden rails parted to reveal an adroitly disguised extension that, upon unfolding, expanded the table’s capacity from six to ten. Tracing his fingers across the table’s surface stained with the memories of half a thousand festive gatherings of family and friends, Kevin Bates glided through the dining room only to be brought up short. In the living room before him curled into a corner of the loveseat glowed the beauty that had first mesmerized him forty years before. A softly shining computer screen limned her face, drew his eye to fetching silver highlights in her casually mussed hair and reflected from her glasses. Intently peering at the screen with pursed lips, Marianne appeared in the throws of intense mental focus.

Unwilling to disturb such beauty in concentration, Kevin waited until Marianne’s attention wavered and she glanced up from her task. “Bonsoir, ma cherie,” he said, because even after forty years of wedded felicity these small affectionate expressions were not rote repetition but distilled declarations of adoration. (In truth their domestic delight’s forty year mark was still six months in the future, but in matters of the heart a certain gauziness in memory and vision is devoutly to be pursued in place of unwarranted precision.)

“Oh, hey Kev. Don’t forget to send out the book club reminder.”

Apparently forty years sufficed to erode at least one person’s desire to nourish a relationship even with rote repetition. But, zut alors! How could he have forgotten? Tasks lay at hand to be completed with exactness and punctuality. Taking up his computer, Kevin threw himself on the living room settee. Composed of a material that called forth in memory the inimitable Ricardo Montalban purring the praises of “fine Corinthian leather” in automobile upholstery, they had acquired the settee while on holiday in Murray—a Utah paesino where he and his wife had been celebrating their wedding anniversary—from a small, exclusive purveyor of luxury furnishings known as RC Willey.

Accessing the email program, Kevin wracked his brain seeking les mots justes for the Thanatopsis missive, after all he had admirers to please and skeptics to confound.  However, unable to compose an appropriately witty and thoughtful message, he decided ultimately to offer a simple précis because pith is always très élégante.

What:                    Thanatopsis discussing A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles

Where:                Debbie’s home

Who:                     Kevin Bates, leading the discussion.

The essentials having been communicated with admirable concision, he contemplated with furrowed brow an appropriate conclusion, one that was not overly ornate, but yet exhibited the flourish he modestly considered to be his calling card. Ah! He had it.

“Exhausted, yet also strangely exhilarated from the effort of feigning gentility even in the small matter of a notification, I remain,

your humble and decidedly ungentle servant,

the Girl