The Santa Monica Public Library offers a wide variety of book clubs. Readers can choose between Classic California, the Jewish Diaspora, Mysteries, and Biographies. Add a few generic book groups on top, and Santa Monica readers may yet find, peeking out from the bottom of such a large and impressive pile, the Fairview Branch Literature Book Group, now starting a new five-book series of classic literature. The Fairview Branch Literature Book Group meets at the Fairview Library: – 2101 Ocean Park Boulevard – on the second Saturday of each month, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.During their first series, featuring classic novels published between 1831 – 1900, loyal members attended regularly, and were pleased with the group discussions, even though the books were quite challenging. Book club member Gail Alcott remarked, “I want to read books that I would not read on my own.” Gail also enjoys mystery novels, but feels that “literature is important because it’s more of a discipline.” Fellow Literature Book Club member Sara Van Dyck is thrilled to read books from another era that allow her to “live inside characters…I can see, I can feel, I can struggle with them. And then you look at what we’re dealing with today, and you can see similar relationships. A sense of time and timelessness.”Looking ahead to the Literature Book Club’s Spring 2006 selections, readers should note that the next five novels are more contemporary. All of them were published between 1916 and 1962. On February 11, the Literature Book Club will discuss Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence. Lawrence considered this frenetic, intense novel to be his masterpiece. According to Joyce Carol Oates, “Lawrence’s shifts in mood and conviction are passionate, even unsettling. One feels that he writes to discover what he thinks, what is thinking in him, on an unconscious level. Love is an ecstatic experience. Or is it, perhaps, a delusion? Erotic love is a way of salvation—or is it a distraction, a burden? Is it something to be gone through in order that one’s deepest self may be stirred to life? Or is it a very simple, utterly natural emotion . . . ?”On March 11, the Literature Book Club will discuss Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. In writing about his best friend, marine biologist Ed Ricketts, Steinbeck sought to convey the magic of a world containing a flophouse, a houseboat, a discarded boiler house, and a respectable whorehouse. More important, according to Steinbeck scholar Susan Shillinglaw, “for Steinbeck, Ricketts was accepting because he just listened and tended to turn whatever people said into something that sounded brilliant. That sense that out of conversation grows truth and reality. And whatever ideas you have grow out of conversation.” On April 8, the Literature Book Club will discuss The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing. Lessing, still alive and writing (her latest novel, Griot and the Snow Dog, was released in January), is one of the greatest authors of the twentieth century. Novelist Erica Jong gained much inspiration from The Golden Notebook. “This book was very important to my growth as a novelist because it told the story of a woman whose various selves—political, psychological and sexual—are equally represented….The journey of the book is a woman’s struggle to harmonize all her passions. I read it when I was writing Fear of Flying and found it fiercely inspiring.”On May 13, the Literature Book Club will discuss To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway. Critics have always split regarding their views of this short, socially conscious novel. Indeed, two years after its publication, Howard Hawks offered to convert the book to film. “Ernest, you’re a damn fool,” said Hawks. “You need money, you know. You can’t do all the things you’d like to do. I can make a picture out of your worst story.” Hemingway took Hawks up on his offer, and it is no surprise that the classic movie bears little resemblance to the original novel.On June 10, the Literature Book Club will discuss Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Tender is the Night chronicles the deterioration of an expatriate psychiatrist and his mentally unstable wife in Paris, and was the last complete novel written before Fitzgerald’s “crack-up” and eventual death in Hollywood, California. In 1920, Fitzgerald declared his views on writing: “My whole theory of writing I can sum up in one sentence: An author ought to write for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next, and the schoolmasters of ever afterward.”
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