LitClub: Eat, Drink & Be Literary
Iowa City, Iowa
THE "BE MERRY" part of this Iowa group's moniker has been dropped in name only—they're all too happy to honor the original Eat, Drink, & Be Merry! But don't let that fool you: they're plenty serious about their reading and have been for 8 years.
You've been around as a group since 2005. How did you get started?
Two of our members worked together ... and both had been in book clubs before. It turns out they missed talking about books, so they decided to start a group on their own.How did you come up your name? It's clever!
Well, we all like to eat, and we enjoy our wine, so we just put that together with our love of books. For our meetings, we often theme the menu to the book. How many members now?
We have 12 members, ranging in age from our 20s to 50s. Many joined through a posting on our local library website, and we've blended nicely with the original group. Members have come and gone over the years, but we have a good solid group now with a common interest—food, wine, and reading.Tell us what you've read recently.
Here's our list from over the past 12 months:The Dirty LifeLonesome DoveOlive KitteridgeParis WifeDreamlandPeach KeeperArt of FieldingHotel on the Corner of Bitter and SweetGone GirlLet’s Pretend This Never HappenedYou also had a "come-with-what-you're reading" night? It's a good idea.
Yes, in May everyone came with the book she was currently reading and then reported on it to the rest of the group. Over the years, you must have read a good 80 or 90+ books. Any all time favorites?
- We like books that have great character development—the kind that you think about long after you're finished. Our most recent book, Gone Girl, had us guessing at every turn and feeling betrayed by all the lies told by the narrators. This is one we'll think about for a long time!
- We also enjoyed the memorable characters and memorable story lines in ... Driftless, The Gargoyle, Nobody's Fool, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
- We particularly loved My Life in France for Julia Child's delightful voice and wonderful spirit.
How about books that led to great discussions?
- Light House (by David Monahan) was one of our first books. We went into the discussion not caring much for the book, but after discussing and dissecting it a little more, we came to appreciate it for the hilarious parody that it is.
- The Paris Wife generated some good discussion about Hemingway's flippant attitude towards his marriage, and the hedonistic lifestyle of the artists in Paris.
- Shadow Divers, a book none of us would have ever chosen on our own, turned out to be a fascinating book about a German U Boat discovered by some divers at a very dangerous depth.
John Updike's Rabbit, Run is one. The Banyan Tree was just too cryptic and hard to read. We felt the narrators of the memoirs The Possibility of Everything and A Year of Magical Thinking were overly self-absorbed. We have a few others we make fun of mercilessly, but to protect the authors' feelings, we won't mention them by name! ;o)
You have a lot of fun with your books.
- Yes. We often theme our food and decorations to the book, show up with props, or even come in costume—like arriving in fins, mask, and snorkel for the Shadow Divers meeting.
- For Lonesome Dove we had a cowboy campfire. And when we watched the 4th installment of the film series, the hostess's father served us terrific cowboy food while dressed in full "cowboy regalia." (See photo.)
- We had a wonderful evening with Mary Helen Stefaniak, author of two books, The Califfs of Baghdad, Georgia and The Turk and My Mother. We met her at the wine bar in Prairie Lights, a favorite Iowa City bookstore. (See photos: the author is in the center of both, wearing a white cardigan.)