Differing opinions, good discussions

Book club

November 08, 2001

An interview with Jenny Leopold, facilitator of the book club at Florence Bain Senior Center in Columbia.

What is your role as the book club's facilitator? I'm a [former] English teacher, and I taught high school and college English, and now I'm at home with [my own] kids. ... I absolutely love working with this population. Seniors are just the best students ... and I think that they think of me as their teacher [even though] they are a group of women who have been active readers their whole life. Some of them have been teachers. One of them was a librarian. I really feel like they have more experience with books than I do.

What book are club members reading this month? They're reading Sister Carrie. The author is Theodore Dreiser. It was written and set in the late 19th century in the U.S., and it's about a woman from a small Midwestern town who goes to Chicago.

Are there any books that the club has especially enjoyed? Yeah, an author that we've read several books by that has been popular is Toni Morrison. And we've read, I think, four of her books, but Song of Solomon was the best discussion. And I'll tell you, they consider the best discussion is one where not everyone likes the book. [For example] Paradise - that's her most recent - there's a kind of mystical element to the book, and it just didn't work for some people. The mystical element was kind of unbelievable.

Is there a book none of the members have liked? There have been several times where the [public] library didn't have enough copies of a book [to reserve one for all of us], so what we've done is said, "OK, we're going to read books by this author." So about two years ago, we read Patricia Highsmith. She wrote the book that the film The Talented Mr. Ripley is based on ... and nobody liked her books. It wasn't that the writing was poor. They just felt that she was a bit depraved.

Did everybody finish their book? Yeah, in that case they did, but there have been times when people haven't though. Sometimes they don't read the book. They're just interested in the discussion or hearing about the book.

The book club meets at 10 a.m. the fourth Tuesday of every month at the Florence Bain Senior Center, 5470 Ruth Keeton Way, Columbia. Information: Barbara Miller, program specialist for the Howard County Office on Aging, at 410-313-7467.

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