Friday, November 6, 2009

Things I Learned When I Was Supposed To Be Learning Something Else

Tonight our book group met to discuss The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Shaffer and Barrows. Five of the six of us found the book delightful; one thought it was "feevty-feevty," a reference to a past read, The Geography of Bliss. Our book tonight was a series of 1946 letters that wove a story into accounts of the German occupation of the island of Guernsey during World War II. We met for almost three hours, but our book discussion occupied probably only half an hour.

Our first tangent was actually related to the book. One of our members had researched and written a paper on the German POWs who picked fruit at farms in Michigan after the war. The farmer she interviewed spoke German to the POWs who worked for him and corresponded with them after they were sent back to Europe. She told stories of how devastated and poor and hungry Europeans were for years after the war ended. She said rationing in England didn't end until the sixties.

One thread in the book was love of literature, so I suppose our meanderings into The Iliad, The Odyssey, Charles Lamb, The Gift, Nicholson Baker, Richard the Third, Barbara Pym, Beowulf, Seamus Heaney, James Joyce, (and authors and books and reviews I can't begin to remember) were just more threads woven around that theme. Seamus Heaney and James Joyce came up because one of our members is spending five months in Ireland, where we all thought we should also visit on our group trip to Guernsey, which now seems like a pretty attractive destination. Someone quoted someone as saying Ireland is narrow and deep, and the U.S. is broad and shallow. The shallowness is our relative lack of history, but also the naivete of not having experienced the devastation and poverty and hunger following world war on our soil.

Oh, and tonight I also learned that there are mythology geeks; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were named after Renaissance artists because their creators were artists; e-mail is for old people, which four of us apparently are, because we don't send text messages; none of us would read a book on a Kindle; you can make your dog lie down by pointing at him and saying "pow"; one recipe for food-allergic children resembles potato-peel pie; and salt-and-pepper potato chips are the new "in" snack. Okay, maybe our meeting wasn't as hilarious as the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society meetings were, but it was certainly as engaging and eclectic.

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