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May 18, 2009

Book Club Discovery

Posted by carol
Marion Percy, a member of The Cape Goddesses Book Group in Connecticut, came across a novel called The Mountain while browsing in an independent bookstore in upstate New York. She selected it as her book club pick, which led to a road trip, a lively discussion with the author...and a surprise invitation. Today she shares her story of this book club discovery with us.

I'm always in search of books about art and artists. I also love books that teach me something about an area I've visited. When I saw The Mountain, a novel by Raymond J. Steiner, in Merritt Bookstore in Millbrook, New York, where I grew up, I was intrigued right away because the story takes place in nearby Woodstock.

When I read the first few pages, I knew right away this would be my next choice for my book group, The Cape Goddesses. I read The Mountain right away, though, rather than waiting until it was my turn to lead discussion!

The next step when I love a book is to Google the author. It turned out Mr. Steiner was doing a reading at the Woodstock Art Association Museum in a few weeks. I met up with one of my group members, and another member of the online group in which I participate. We made a field trip from Connecticut to hear Mr. Steiner. While there, I also bought copies of The Mountain so he could sign them for my friends. (By the way, one of my group members does not keep her books. She donates her them to her very small local library. Now they will have a signed copy for their collection.)

It was an intimate gathering for the event. We had a lot of time to talk with Mr. Steiner and loved his reading. The location was perfect because we were able to see paintings by many of the local artists mentioned in the book.

When it was time for our group's discussion of the book, Mr. Steiner joined us by phone for an hour. All you booklovers know how wonderful author participation is! It was his first phone-in discussion. He talked a lot about art in general and his background, which includes being an art critic and editor of the journal Art Times. During our conversation we got to know his characters more intimately --- particularly Jake Forscher, the main character, who in the book leads the reader through the history of the Woodstock Artists' Colony --- and talked about how art makes us feel; even a little about painting technique. And he invited us to come visit him!

One of our guests that night was a local librarian, and she brought along books by and about artists who were important in the development of the Woodstock art colony described in the book. This also strengthened the personal connection to the story.

Now, we have another field trip to look forward to when we visit Mr. Steiner.

---Marion Percy