My thoughts on Book Club

I saw Book Club this weekend. As a writer and a voracious reader, a movie about a book club is immediately appealing to me. Throw in some of my favorite actresses, like Diane Keaton and Jane Fonda, and no additional incentive is required. That being said, I do have my own issues with aging, especially the discrepancy between how an aging woman is treated versus a man. I worried about how the women in this movie would be betrayed, and if it would trigger my own fears about aging.

 So, what did I think about the movie?

In a nutshell, I loved almost every part of it. I smiled, I laughed out loud, I choked up, I applauded, I swooned. I’m a big fan of romantic comedies with happily-ever-after endings. The fact that the couples in this movie were at least twenty years older than me had no bearing on my feelings. Here’s why.

The friendship shared by the four women was supportive, hilarious, and honest, akin to Sex and the City. They teased each other endlessly, but they had each other’s backs. The personalities were somewhat clichéd (there was the “promiscuous” one (Fonda), the “prude,” (Bergen) and the idealist (Steenburgen). There were jabs about one of the male leads needing Viagra and one of the female characters having plastic surgery. None of this bothered me because the characters were developed beyond these stereotypes. And, the truth is, many men of a certain age do take the little blue pill and many women of a certain age (and even millennials) get plastic surgery! And while erectile function was an issue for one of the couples, the other romantic story lines developed like any other romance. I’m a fan of grand gestures in romantic comedies and this movie had them in spades, and it was wonderful.

 As I watched the film, it occurred to me that the women could have been any age and have almost the same conversations. In nearly every group of friends, there’s someone who is afraid of getting hurt, not happy with her body, holding a grudge against a family member etc. Women of all ages commiserate over bottles of wine and seek guidance on what to wear on a special occasion. I liked that these women were portrayed as vulnerable despite being old enough to qualify for Medicare. With each decade of my life, I become less obsessed with what others think of me, but at the heart of it, I’m still made of flesh and blood and can’t imagine a time when I won’t seek some sort of reassurance/validation/advice from friends, even over things some might consider frivolous or immature.

 The female characters were successful women. One was a Federal judge, another owned a hotel, and another was a well-known chef. Yet they still craved romance and attention from the opposite sex. What’s so wrong with that? I’m tired of watching television and movies where it’s the woman who loses interest in sex and not the man. Or the divorced man or widower gets right back in the dating scene, usually with a younger woman, and the divorced woman (or widow) focuses only on her career or her children. Why can’t she have both? I don’t think women lose their power because they want romantic love. I haven’t read many of the reviews, but I’m sure there are some who think the movie is anti-feminist because it focuses on women needing a man. I didn’t get that vibe at all. All four women had proven that they were completely capable of taking care of themselves. Admitting that they wanted sexual companionship and romantic love doesn’t change that.

 I had small issues with the film, for instance, I wished Keaton’s character had more of a spine a little earlier with respect to her children, but I walked out of the theater with a smile on my face and the warm and fuzzies in my belly.

Fun facts: One of Candace Bergen’s online dates played her love interest in the last season of Sex and the City. My friend also pointed out that Don Johnson, one of the male leads, is the real father of Dakota Johnson, who plays Anastasia Steele in the movie version of Fifty Shades of Grey, the book they’re reading.

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My gig as a guest author

I’m waiting for the Bolt Bus to arrive at 34th and 8th to take me to Philadelphia. I am guest author this evening for a chicklit book club and need to commute from NYC. It’s raining and I’m afraid my hair will frizz even though I got a Kerotine treatment that’s supposed to take care of that. It shouldn’t matter what I look like – it’s not a date or anything – but I assume all eyes will be on me and don’t want anyone to say “great book but the author has really bad hair!” Better, I suppose than “lousy book and the author has really bad hair!”

I’m on the bus now and out of the rain. Getting on the bus was not without issue though. In true Meri fashion, I fought with another girl. I thought she was cutting the line and have no tolerance for people with a sense of entitlement. That being said, she wasn’t cutting the line. My bad!

My friend Sharon, who I met years ago through my own chicklit book club in NYC, started her own club in Philly and asked if I would be a guest author tonight. Hello? Exposure? Probable sales? Not to mention that I am a huge fan of book clubs in general. No brainer! That’s not to say I’m not nervous. I am. I’m afraid the book will not be well received. I’m afraid the attendees will be thinking, “who the hell is Meredith Schorr and why are we reading her book? My sister’s best friend’s cousin knows a girl whose step father’s uncle is related to Nora Robert’s hair dresser. Why can’t she come instead?” I’m afraid they will be nice to my face but later confess to hating the book at the June meeting. I’m being paranoid which is not all uncommon for me. Most people have really liked my book and there is no reason to suspect that the members of the Philly group will be different, but they are valid, human concerns nonetheless, right? I didn’t write a speech or anything and hope it will be more of a Q&A. I can’t imagine anyone asking a question I haven’t heard before like, “Is the book autobiographical? How long did it take to write? Was it difficult to get published? But you never know.

I’m off to take a nap now but I’ll continue this after the book club. Wish me luck!

I am now on the Bolt Bus waiting to go back to NYC. This time there was no confrontation with another passenger! I also arrived early and the driver let me take an earlier bus. I am digging Philadelphia! I know what you’re all wondering though- how was the book club?

It was great!

Sharon and I met up early to catch up over dinner and a beer. I needed the latter to calm my nerves! At 7 we climbed the stairs to the 2nd floor of the Triumph Brewery where the book club met. There were tables strewn across the room but Sharon and I pushed two large tables together to make one that would accommodate about 11 of us. Although 20 or so people rsvped “yes”, Sharon said several bailed at the last minute. As the organizer of my own book club, I am used to last minute cancellations and did not take it personally. Besides, I am more comfortable in smaller groups anyway. In total I think there were 12 of us and with the exception of 2, I think everyone actually read the book. They all claimed to have really enjoyed it and since two of them gave it 5 stars on Goodreads, I am tucking away my paranoia that they are just being nice. They all said it was difficult to put down towards the end and I agree, I really hit my stride in the last 100 pages or so. There was some mixed answers as to whether they predicted a major twist – most didn’t but a few did. And then there were the questions. Do I work from an outline? Once I finished the book, what were my next steps? Was Stephanie loosely based on me which, after hearing my ‘”yes” answer lead to questions about how many of the other characters were inspired by my life. There was some serious blushing by me when we discussed the sex scenes and questions were asked about my soon-to-be published book Planet Of The Flakes. And much to my surprise, there were, indeed, questions I hadn’t heard before. For instance, how did I come up with the names of my characters? The answer was that, with a few exceptions, I didn’t put much thought into it at all and whatever name came to me while introducing a new character was the name I chose. Another question was whether I believed it was possible to make a living writing. The answer was that, for a select and lucky few, it was possible. For now and for the foreseeable future, I was not one of those people.

All of the women were so kind and seemed genuinely interested and they were all pretty funny too-like the women in my own book club in New York. As with most casual book clubs, the discussion segued to other topics like movies, other books, reality television and Zac Efron. I think I was the one to bring up Zac. I’m a wee bit infatuated…

 

I had brought customized JFWB bookmarks and as the evening drew to a close, the women asked me to autograph them which was super cool. They had all downloaded an e-version of the book so there were no physical books to sign. I know there is a way to autograph a Kindle download but I think that’s kind of lame and so I haven’t looked into it.

The girls all thanked me for coming and one asked if she could send me pages of a WIP if she decided to start writing and of course I said, “yes.” I love when people ask for advice or guidance. It’s a way to pay it forward.

Sharon’s friend Jen let us stay at her apartment that night and on the drive back, she teasingly referred to me as “the talent.” I could get used to that!

All in all – successful and fun night! Book clubs are such a great way to make new friends and I know if I ever left NYC to live somewhere else, joining or starting a book club would be one of the first things I did!