I found the groups through a woman, Polly, whose husband worked out at my gym. He and I would talk politics during our cardio hour and manage to avoid said cardio. He eventually told me about his wife’s book groups. She, with meeting me only once, invited me to these book groups. That was nice, she didn’t have to do it. At the time I was desperate for some independance from Sparky and this seemed right up my ally.
Out of the two groups, Polly was friendlier with the hausfrau group than the Lit Circle. I love the Lit Circle. It’s all German women who teach English and other foreign languages and are interested in reading modern Lit in the original language. We read Contemporary North American fiction. Last year was John Irving, David Sedaris, Alice Hoffman, and John Updike. Get my drift? It’s fun and interesting and I look forward to it immensely. The leader researches every author and book and we actually discuss the books. I learn so much even though I’ve read the books previously.
The hausfrau group is the polar opposite. It’s lead by an American woman with a great big “suffer” stick up her bum. Two of the women are British and contrary to my experience with the British, quite aloof and humorless. They might actually have a sense of humor in a different situation. The other woman is from India and she is a kick in the pants. She and I get along well. Lorraine, who introduced me, did so in a very uh… ungracious manner. I think this is from where our (the group’s and mine) personal disconnect stems.
Looking for a phone number of one of the women, I stumbled upon the posts where Polly initially asked if I could join. It wasn’t very nice and she rather bluntly questioned my “self-proclaimed reader status.” She and I went to one hausfrau meeting together and then she moved back to America, leaving me to get to know the other women on my own.
Not usually a problem for me. I’m rather outgoing and like to talk and get to know people. But these women said not a word to me for the first four meetings. Then I offered to have a meeting at my house. And they spoke. The leader did not like my choice of books. I have been here three years. I shipped three boxes of books I simply could not live without. Every other book I have acquired here. I have 10 bookshelves two and three books deep. There was not one book there she “approved” of. Give it a rest, Becky, there had to be one.
So, one meeting I suggested A Complicated Kindnessby Miriam Toews. She’s a Canadian Mennonite and the book was so fabulous I re-read it three times in a row. I recommended this book after we read Graham Greene’s The Power and The Glory, an exhausting book if there ever was one.
Anyway, we read the Toews book and the leader HATED it. She didn’t understand the ending, she didn’t understand the Mennonite connection, she didn’t understand any of the subplots and she just found it “Not suited to her taste in literature.”
Wow… okay then. She took control again and suggested the next book we read. All Quiet on the Western Front. Holy shit, Batman. Just poke my eyes with forks, but do not make me read that book again.
Now I like to suffer when I read, don’t get me wrong. I have a whole collection of tortured women books that my GBF and I would pass back and forth. In fact, there is a whole lot of suffering in the Toews book, but do not give me a book about poor teenage boys falling bloodily in battle. I know it’s a good book. I read it. I had to, in my ninth grade English class. Didn’t we all? Why, then, must we re-visit?? Why don’t we just hit Lord of the Flies while we’re at it?
So I mentioned that maybe we should move on to something a bit lighter.
The response? Silence. I heard some crickets and possibly a cat bell in the distance.
That was the last time I actively engaged in this group. I’ve read the books; I’ve gone to the meetings. I’ve kept quiet and now I just don’t want to go anymore.
I want to quit, but I don’t want to leave on a sour note. I want to be morally superior. Also, it’s a small circle of expats where I live and I don’t want to be the ungrateful American who read and ran.
So, I need a nicely worded exit email.
I thought about saying that our taste in books varies too greatly to bridge the gap, but that “self-proclaimed reader” still pisses me off. Who else proclaims you a reader? Your mama? Because if that’s the case, then I’m in trouble because if my mama had to tell those biddies I’m a reader, they are getting a whole lot more than they bargained for. They would not be happy to have her sit in their living room for a cup of tea (they don’t drink coffee).
This where I think I’m going.
Thanks for letting me join your reading group. I have appreciated your generosity and hospitality. At this time, I just don’t have the time to commit to the group.
Self Proclaimed Reader
So my question, why does this bother me so much? Seriously, it’s three women I don’t even like, but they made me feel so second rate. And yet I can’t just tell them to fuck off like I would anyone else (and do frequently). I have to be nice and I worry about the wording so much as I write a post about it.
Well I am hereby telling them to fuck off. But if any of you have a nice way of wording that, please let me know.