I began liking New York City when, at church, a new friend said that the Relief Society (women's organization) book club for the congregation read classics and was lead by an English professor. My heart did a little dance, as I have *always* wanted to be in a book club where the classics were read seriously and studiously. I had even thought about starting my own in London with a hodgepodge of friends who were serious about literature.
"Finally," I thought to myself, "I am not a misfit toy."
And so it goes. As most things in my congregation, this book club was shut down for the summer (my cousin once said that you know you've arrived when "summer" becomes a verb - apparently, many in this city have, as almost all families in my congregation "summer" somewhere far away, cool, and green).
Thus I had to wait till last month to get my first classic book club fix. It was everything I hoped for - intellectual discussion around literary themes, good ancillary conversation, and gourmet treats to boot. As opposed to Daniel Deronda, a little-known George Elliot masterpiece, assigned in September, this month's reading was post-modern Slaughterhouse Five.
Had I not gone to book club this month, I quite possibly would have missed much of the book's deeper meaning, particularly as it related to the compelling themes of agency and being a witness. Despite the horrid language, as our fearless book club leader said, there is something sacred about a book that claims that being a witness counts for something, even if that is all that can count about a person. Billy Pilgrim is pathetic, inept, emasculated, baby-like, and completely deprived of his agency throughout the plotline. And yet, for all he didn't have, Billy was a witness to one of life's greatest tragedies, and that counted for something.
As someone who believes in another ill-educated, imperfect man's testimony of important things he heard and saw - enough to change my life to adhere to a faith that professes restoration of Christ's true church through the means of that poor farm boy - I believe being a witness counts. It counts for very much indeed.