In spite of the last minute rescheduling of yesterdays meeting, we had eight intrepid book lovers. I would characterize the mood as a cross between hilarity and conviviality. Madelon brought a crockpot full to the brim with magnificent soup that was so fragrant we were compelled to eat first, then discuss later, which was almost a mistake. After an hour of food and laughter, it was apparent that this book wasn't fore in anyone's mind. Finally, Madelon sat back, folded her arms and challenged me to bring the group into control. I'm watching, she said. We laughed at that too. We laughed at everything and I can't remember what was so funny - maybe everybody? And who knew Jeanette could sing and used to have a band?!
To everyones credit, we did have a discussion, albeit brief. No one truly enjoyed the book and we wondered how it has maintained its status as a classic. It was one of his earlier works and we felt the transition from chapter to chapter was choppy and stiff, though we agreed that it was a brilliant chronicle of characters he had encountered in Monterrey.
Dolores said that if there was one character she could say she liked, it would be The Pirate because of the care he had for his dogs. We agreed. Leslie said the paisanos reminded her of the Portagees in Mendicino, also a fishing based economy where the red wine flowed. Since it didn't feel like a story with a beginning, middle and end, we talked about the people and their lifestyle.
Dolores felt it was a chronicle of desperate and chronic poverty. No one had clothes decent enough to go to Danny's funeral. I had never understood the Bible story about going to a funeral without appropriate clothes until I as driving home and then it made sense, except in Tortilla Flat, it wasn't a matter of choice but dictated by empovrishment.
Madelon read from the foreword of her copy written by an Arthurian scholar and comparing The Round Table with Danny's paisanos. It's clear from Steinbeck's occasional use of Elizabethan English that he had intended the comparison. Is this the key to this book's continuing classic status and high school required reading?
We finalized the reading list and assigned months which I will put in a separate post so you can find it again in the future. Some book discussions have taken an hour and a half. This one was about a half hour and then we went back to hilarity and convivality. I think the Christmas potluck has to be a tradition.