Here’s a photograph of me and my mosse at our elementary school’s benefit auction.
Yes, you read that correctly–my mosse as I named it. My mom posse.
The mosse was born at the beginning of pre-K when Charlotte, the one in the navy blue dress, emailed all the moms in our pre-K class and suggested we go out for drinks. Charlotte is a super organizer of people and children, as I have witnessed the last two years (our daughters have been in pre-K, K, and will be in 1st grade together, too!). The people who came out routinely were the six of us: Charlotte, Sarah, Irish Sarah (because she’s Irish), Ashley, Amy (not pictured), and myself. Soon we determined that we were the ones who prioritized drinking and gabbing on the regular, so we just emailed each other every other month or so and met at various wine bars, cocktail bars, beer gardens and talked about our kids, jobs, lives, school, etc. They are an amazing group of women.
Then Amy suggested we start a book club. Awesome! The last book club I belonged to was a group of teachers from my high school with other teacher people. We met maybe half a dozen times and the entire endeavor fell apart because folks stopped reading the book and just came to socialize. I love to socialize–don’t misunderstand–but there were times when I wanted to talk about the damn book! This happened for the last time (for me) when we read Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Doctor Paul Farmer, the Man Who Could Cure the World by Tracy Kidder. This book totally rocked by world. I drew so many correlations between his work and beliefs and my work and beliefs. I could not wait to talk to other inner city high school teachers about it, but (whaw whaw) nobody read it. I hid my disappointment and slight rage beneath some mimosas, and then I was out. Bye bye book club.
We had our first meeting last month and read The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud. Everybody read the book! We had great conversation at Brook Vin (a nearby wine bar) and it was a smashing success. This month we are reading Maps for Lost Lovers by Nadeem Aslam. We had to postpone the bookclub meeting by two weeks because none of us had finished this very dense text. But most of us have now, and we meet next week.
As a writer of sorts, these two books were interesting to read side-by-side. Messud’s novel is beautifully written, but in a very simple and approachable way. There were sentences of hers that were so lovely and paragraphs that were so tight and nicely done that I had to pause to reread them. Her word choice was extraordinary. I wish I could quote an example for you now, but I loaned my copy to a friend. Aslam’s novel had moments of beauty, but the description was so thick–too thick–that reading the text was like trying to see underwater in a murky lake. Periodically, a metaphor or image would stand out of the muckity muck of overly dense prose in its beauty, but a lot of his words were lost. What a shame, I kept thinking, that this book wasn’t pared down a bit to be stronger. It was like a pretty girl with too much makeup on.
Additionally, pacing was a contrasting point between the two books. The mosse laughed when discussing The Woman Upstairs because while we all loved it, we joked that our husbands might read the book and claim that it was a book about nothing. Of course that’s not true; it does examine the more pedestrian elements of life, however it never loses a sense of momentum when doing that. I always felt compelled to keep reading, curious about what might happen next. The novel moved steadily and surely, and it brought me with it. In Maps of Lost Lovers, I felt weighed down. Reading this text was like trying to run wind sprints with a tire strapped to you: exhausting. The pace of it picked about about 2/3 of the way through the book, but for a 379 page novel in small print, that was a little too late for me.
I write all of this to say that I have learned some interesting points about writing through reading these two novels, and because of that I am more than happy that I read them. I would not have read either, most likely, had it not been for the book club’s requests, but it’s good to be gently forced to read beyond your usual genres or preferences–just like being in a class. Now I am starting to read The Road Out: A Teacher’s Odyssey in Poor America as requested by a close retired teacher friend of mine. It’s already rubbing me the wrong way, so it should prove an interesting read.
Happy summer reading!