Lane Cake, Crescendoes and Atticus Finch

The Lane cake made its appearance somewhere around 9 p.m. It arrived after the vegetarian chili, but before the discussion about triathlons. And it was before the discussion of the 1940s in the 1950s house, but after the inspection of the dog bed for the cat. …

And thus went another book club. …

I love our book club. It’s one of those arrangements of people you don’t even realize, when you’re there in the thick of it, that’s amazing.

I had this experience a few other times – once with set of neighbors, from about 1996 to 1998; once with a group of kindergarten moms; and once with a group of coworkers at the newspaper. When you’re in the middle of things – in the middle of the everydayness of gathering around the coffeemaker at the newspaper or walking your babies or dropping your kids off at kindergarten – it’s easy to overlook the fact that you get along remarkably well with this group of people. You tend to think (in the everydayness) that you would get along with any people who were walking their babies, or that you’d laugh that hard with any gathering of coworkers who created weird collections of plastic cups in each other’s cubicles. But it’s only later – years and years later, sometimes – that you realize that … well, no. No, you wouldn’t have laughed that hard with another gathering of coworkers, or felt that connected to another set of moms in front of the swing sets. That was a special group. It was just the right personalities at just the right time who came together at just the right moment, when you all understood and needed and appreciated each other. It’s like the coming together of random band instruments on a street corner, all at the proper pitch and proper speed, to create the perfect crescendo.

Our book club is made up of women from various moments of life, which adds to its musicality. We have 20-somethings, 30-somethings, 40-somethings and 50-somethings. We have marrieds with children, marrieds without; singles with fiancées, singles without. We have different cultures, different religions, an English accent and a Southern drawl. Some of us studied literature, others didn’t. Some have advanced degrees, others don’t. It really doesn’t matter. Everyone is welcome. And everyone brings something unique, which is what makes the discussions so great.

This particular meeting – held at Lauran’s uber-cool house – was additionally fun because it was “Men’s Night.” Men are always invited to our meeting, but – alas – not many come. (Maybe it’s our long discussions about how we roast cinnamon pecans or who sits next to whom at the tech-editing seminar. … hmmm …) Anyway, the exception, wonderfully, is Men’s Night. We’ve had three Men’s Night’s so far – with Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men, and now To Kill a Mockingbird. All three brought large groups, which we’re never entirely sure how to handle, but having a bunch of guys there is fun – they always bring something special to the discussion. We try to serve food that they like, try to minimize the discussion of the roasted pecans, and try to ascertain how they read certain characters, and if they look for different things in a protagonist or a conflict than we do. My husband and my 15-year-old son came this time, since they both loved Mockingbird, and it was really fun to have them there. We also had a brother, a soon-to-be nephew, a couple of husbands and a fiancé.

And then there was the Lane cake. It had to make its appearance. It was mentioned at least twice in Mockingbird, so Rosy looked it up and found out it’s a traditional Southern cake, named after a cookbook author who made the layered concoctions in Alabama “back in the day.” Rosy made one of the original recipes and brought that. That’s another fun thing about the book club – we always try to make or bring foods that are mentioned in the book, or at least from that era or region, and it just makes the story come alive even more. Plus it gives us another chance to cook. And eat.

As for Mockingbird and its discussion – well, everyone loved it. And, really, what’s not to love? A book about humanity and courage and generations and compassion – who could not love it? Some loved Atticus, and how he represented what it means to be a man; some loved Scout and how her lack of bias is something we wish we could all hang onto; some sympathized with Jem and how he was losing his innocence but not his compassion. And all of us loved the humor and simplicity with which Harper Lee told her tale. James thought some of the racial tension was downplayed so much to be unrealistic, but others thought that, since the whole thing had to be channeled through an 8-year-old narrator, some romantic glossiness was warranted. Overall, we got to see humanity and compassion from the perspectives of so many different characters – interpreted by so many different people – and got a chance to “stand in others’ shoes.”

And we got to eat Lane cake.

During a crescendo.

What could be better than that?

So tell me about your own “street bands” — have you found yourself lucky enough to find a great group of people who may not even know they’re creating crescendos together?

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5 thoughts on “Lane Cake, Crescendoes and Atticus Finch

  1. Laurie,
    I can’t believe I didn’t know you had a blog. I bookmarked it already.
    For Laurie’s readers, I was a part of the magical co-workers at The Register newspaper. It was really special how we got along, despite our quirks. Remember Bruce, the auto writer from Texas who moved here after Kristen started e-mailing him? And how we teased Greg to death? Our Pinatas? Our “meetings” at the Pool Hall? It was just one of those groups that make every day fun for all! Fun Times!

  2. Your book group sounds like a lot of fun! I am lucky enough to have one here in Switzerland that is the highlight of my month (and you even know one of the other members!) but we’ve never had any men in on the discussion (except for the amiable Swiss fellow who uncorks our wine). I can see how that would change the dynamic in a positive and interesting way.

  3. Thanks, Dixie, verbivore and Helene!

    Dixie — yes, a truly fun group. You just always knew you were going to have a good laugh every day over some fun topic!

    Verbivore — yes, it’s fun to have a “Men’s Night” with a book you really want another opinion on. With good food and good wine, you end up having a really great party and some super-engaging conversation!

    Helene — I can’t wait to visit that site! I’ll check it out today and will come back with comments. … Thanks!

  4. Pingback: Another ‘Best Book’ List

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