Botched Book Club

May 1, 2009 at 4:12 pm | Posted in Book Blather | 6 Comments

My book group met on Wednesday.  Normally we do Thursday nights.  I was sick last time, so I was a bit out of the loop, and I wasn’t totally prepared.  I sat up to finish the book late Tuesday night.  I realized Wednesday morning, when I went to cross the title off my list, that

I read the wrong book!

[cue theme music from Psycho]

We chose The Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri, which won the Pulitzer prize.  What I actually read was The Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai, which won the Booker Prize.  They were adjacent in my Reading List spreadsheet.  Is it just me, or was this a fairly reasonable mistake?

The sad part is, The Interpreter of Maladies is not only about 50% shorter, but it’s also a collection of short stories.  I knew this, and as I was reading The Inheritance of Loss I kept wondering why it wasn’t considered a novel.  You’d think something would have tipped me off sooner.

There’s a darker undercurrent here, though, than having to go to book group after having read only a couple of short stories over lunch.  That is, evidently in my mind I tagged these two terrific books as “India books.”  There seems to be a tendency to shop for multicultural books to make a well-rounded reading experience.  To me there’s an element of, I don’t know, trivialization or commodification here or something.  Like if I wrote a memoir, it would be “another one of those ‘triumph over adversity’ things.”  It’s certainly not that I think my book group does this – I’m just worried that I did.

So anyway.  I can heartily recommend both books.  I can also recommend actually writing things down rather than trying to memorize them.


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  1. Now I realize part of my problem is that there’s no “The” in the title of “Interpreter of Maladies.”

  2. You know, I had a similiar problem with these two books recently! I already have “The Inheritance of Loss” sitting in my TBR closet and when I saw “Interpreter of Maladies” at the library book sale shelves, I thought, no, I already have that one. I could have kicked myself afterwards (because the paperbacks were only 50 cents).

    Oh well– I think the confusion also stems from Interpreter and Inheritance both starting with the letters I-N.

    Glad to know you enjoyed both books–Isounds like I might also when I get to them!

  3. I always mix those two up as well.

  4. I could totally see that happening to me! 🙂

  5. Hee. I feel your pain. I’ve been up to the wee hours before book club day trying to come up with pithy things to be able to say come discussion time….
    Haven’t read the wrong book yet, but it’s very much possible…
    My book club strees for Tuesday is of a different sort: the author is attending by speaker phone! Since I arranged it I’m afraid I’ll be expected to cover all conversational pauses. Yikes.

  6. Conversational pauses! Eek!

    The best way I’ve found to handle this sort of thing is to get the other person talking. Come up with as long a list of questions as you can, including trivial ones. Then you can look like a genius while the other person does all the heavy lifting. 🙂

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