Wally, Lynda, Claudia, Wayne, (Jonathan—was in Austin but, thanks to Barbara’s creativity, we took him with us), Thomas, Ralph, and Barbara
Twenty years ago this July, I met with five people who would become life-long friends: Thomas and Barbara Dorn, Ralph Roughton, Jonathan Jay, and Wayne Grinstead. I’d known Wayne a dozen years earlier but that month we both joined a book group consisting of these people.
They became “the best friends ever.” I even performed the marriage ceremony for Thomas and Barbara some time after we began the group. In later years, Jonathan moved to Virginia, and Claudia Dickerson and Lynda Buckner became regular members.
We would meet (usually at first at the Dorn’s condo in Decatur—and then at Ralph’s condo in Dunwoody). Every July 4th we had a celebration at the Dorns and every Christmas the group met at our condo and enjoyed Lynda’s book-related table decorations.
The first book we read in July 1994 was Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient.
Last month, the final book we read as a group was Rabih Alameddine’s An Unnecessary Woman.
In the intervening months, we read many GREAT books…including what we called “tomes” like these…The Magic Mountain (Thomas Mann), Les Miserables (Victor Hugo), Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy), The Odyssey (Homer), Moby Dick (Herman Mehlville), and Ulysees (James Joyce).
As you can probably tell, we were a bit “high brow.” We never read (to discuss) a John Grisham novel.
But last night, via email, we decided to remain friends forever but to stop our monthly meetings. Each family grouping has issues (and you know mine!)…and I believe we are a bit tired…and growing older.
I looked forward to each time our group met.
Years ago, when book groups began taking names (eg. The Jane Austen Book Group), we chose our own name: The No Name Book Group! We couldn’t be like every other group.
We’d get together (nearly) each month, catch everyone up on our lives, talk about popular culture issues, movies we had seen, and then someone would mention the book of the month…and discussion would follow. After the discussion died down, one of the members served a small dessert and then anyone could nominate a book to read for the next month. It was always marvelous.
Milwaukee Art Museum
One Memorial Day Weekend (2002), we all took a road trip together. The No Namers flew to Milwaukee to visit the Milwaukee Art Museum. The building designed by a hero of our group, Santiago Calatrava, was breathtaking and we wanted to experience the space. We had so much fun.
I was the unofficial archivist for the group and for a long time regular kept an official list of books we had read.
I also began recording the authors we had read on a world map which led to discussions about what author we could read to fill a spot on a blank country on our map.
We are all serious readers…but the Dorns tell stories that stick in my imagination.
One summer, we were all to read books of our own choosing and then get together in September and report to the group about our reading experiences. In September, Thomas reported that he had read seven (yes, seven) Japanese novels (in translation). My question was: “Why?”
Barbara would at times confess that she had only read each left hand page!
Once when she was speaking to a coworker about needing to leave work on time because she had book group, her coworker asked: “What do you all talk about? Like how far you got?”
I will still continue reading (especially books recommended by the No Namers). And I will continue my close relationship with these people.
But I will miss our monthly gatherings.
What a wonderful set of memories I have because of these folks.
Love to each.