Reader's Exchange

A glass of wine, a Triscuit, and thou

Have you seen this: T-shirt with wineglass graphic and text "More book club, please"?

Of all the pairing strategies for this beverage category--course-by-course restaurant scenarios, cheese tastings, digital guidance on what to serve with various things-- wine's trendiest association may be with literary discussions.   A good book and a choice bottle don't just enhance one another, they compensate for deficiencies.  Didn't care for the book?  Well, chances are you'll approve the vintage.

None of my book groups follow the sip-and-share template, but one has evolved from snacks to entire meals, occasionally with wine accompaniment.  What does it say about me that I vividly recall several lovely dinners and almost nothing about the texts that inspired them?

Wineglass ringsBut however other reader meet-ups evolve, count on this directive:  Do not, under any circumstances, distract or befuddle yourself with a glass of wine before the Great Conversations book group at the Baca Center.  You will need to keep your wits about you.  It isn't just that these people take the readings seriously; they prepare.  Did you pursue additional background about this month's author, Google some of the historical facets, and review additional selections by the writer?  Congratulations, you'll be in the lowest third ranked by degree of readiness. 

This week's selection, excerpts from Thorstein Veblen's (1899)  The Theory of the Leisure Class, typical of GC assignments, has stood the test of time.  What's unusual is that the same book was chosen by a member of that dinner group a few months back.  (He emailed the group prior to the meeting, apologizing for the selection; we still like him.)  I could describe our progress through the entire text of ornate prose, but "slog" is an ugly word.  I maintain that most employed what I call the Fruitcake Approach that month--picking through, identifying elements of interest, and consuming those.

That's a perfect segue into the recently reviewed 30-page segment of Theory... in Great Conversations 1.  That nicely sized slice of the book addresses (of all things, at this time of year) conspicuous consumption.  Discussion included these questions:  What is the definition of conspicuous consumption?  Why do tasks relegated to women historically rank low in esteem despite their vital nature? 

Group convener Helen, asker of incisive questions, is certain to render the very inquiry one feels least secure in addressing.  So when she queried, "Are we a leisure class?"  I decided to go for it, asserting that everyone in the group qualified:  we have discretionary time, can purchase multiple non-essential items, and (most importantly, since it speaks to Veblen's emphasis on force and predation) may utilize social networking opportunities like Yelp to assert power over production of goods and services.  Several agreed that Veblen's evolutionary approach to consumerism could adapt to include the blurring of classes now prevalent.

At which point Helen delivered the question nobody wants to answer:  How many pairs of shoes are in your closet?

Fortunately, closets have also evolved.

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