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September 28, 2009

Lauren Grodstein: First Impressions

Posted by webmaster
Today's guest blogger, Lauren Grodstein, recalls her interesting first visit to a book club to discuss her debut novel, Reproduction is the Flaw of Love. She is also the author of A Friend of the Family and the story collection The Best of Animals.

When my first novel came out in 2004, I was thrilled to talk about it anywhere --- a neighbor's playgroup, my brother's high school English class, the local dog run. So when a friend of a friend asked if I wanted to talk to her book club --- a real live women-and-bagels book club --- I did my best not to act like a cocker spaniel on uppers. "Yes yes yes! I want to talk to a book club! I'll do it right now! Or whenever! You tell me!"

The book club was in a suburb of New York --- well, more like an exurb --- a good two and a half hours from my tenement home in Brooklyn. Fine. The women were all thirty-to-forty-something professionals who usually discussed nonfiction, not novels. No problem. I spent the week before preparing note cards on some of the fundamental questions of the book, looking for any particular nonfiction angles the women might find interesting. I also transcribed a few witty anecdotes and practiced them out loud. I chose an outfit that said "Serious Writer" --- glasses and scarves, Tina Fey meets Toni Morrison. I borrowed my parents' car.

And then, all too soon, it was Book Club Day. On the drive to Exurb, Mapquest directions in shaky hand, I crossed at least three New York City boroughs and two state lines, but still I got to the Official Book Club Café half an hour early. I strolled up and down the leafy streets to kill time, then followed brick-paved sidewalks to the riverfront, wishing I still smoked. Surely, I thought, Exurb was full of interesting and serious book people. I could tell by the wrought-iron streetlights and all the Saabs parallel-parked by the river.

At five of one, I headed back to the café and looked around for my club. Where were they? I was searching for a crowd of, say, twenty to twenty-five women, all wearing a version of the same outfit I was.

"Lauren? Is that you?"

In the corner by the espresso machine were three women in jeans and a copy of my book with a library stamp on it. My book club! "It's me!"

When I arrived at their table, my hostess informed me that we were still waiting for one more person to arrive. In the meantime, we were talking about kitchen renovations. Kitchen renovations were not the subject of my book; in fact, in my Brooklyn tenement, the subject of kitchen renovations came up vanishingly rarely. Still, I jumped in: granite over Corian, Bosch over SubZero. Slate flooring can be chilly but the look is really awesome. Book club member #4 arrived. Still we dwelled on renovations, but soon enough, we moved on to a friend's failing marriage. Again we swirled back to kitchen design. We paused for a fleeting moment on toddler nap schedules. Then we dallied over whether or not to get more coffee.

"Goodness!" said my hostess, as the clock inched toward three. "We're almost done and we haven't even talked about the book yet! Lauren, we really loved your book."

"You did?"

The ladies smiled kindly. I didn't know if they were telling the truth. I decided they probably were.

"Is there anything you'd like to tell us about it?"

I thought about my anecdotes, the notecards in my purse. I thought about whether or not Corian really resisted fingerprint stains. "It was fun to write," I said.

"That's great," said my book club. "Thank you so much for coming."

A few minutes later, I was back in my parents' car, tooling down the leafy streets of Exurb, high on espresso and the writing life. They'd loved my book! Total strangers, most of them, and still they'd loved my book.

Clearly, as far as my writing career went, I was on the path to very big things.

---Lauren Grodstein