Round Rock New Neighbors is a social organization of women welcoming women in the Round Rock area since 1978. Both "new" and "old" neighbors are welcome. For more information: rrnewneighbors.org [Barnes & Noble requires that RRNN's book club be open to the public, so you do not need to be an RRNN member to attend book club, and both men and women are welcome and do attend. ]
The Friends of the Georgetown Public Library’s Hill Country Authors Series events will be listed here.
Round Rock Public Library Book Group meets monthly at 7:00-8:30 PM. Check the library website for more information, or ask Carla.
Sunday, June 22, 2014
Round Rock has a Main Street, and My Home Town Did — Did Yours?
After reading a book, it's often interesting to learn about the author's life. Reading Main Street, by Sinclair Lewis, I was thinking that Lewis was amazingly brilliant, so it was a fitting surprise to learn he had won a Nobel Prize for his writing. And look what I found today: Click here to read Lewis' autobiographical message on accepting the Nobel
Oh, dear! The World Wide Web trapped me in the early 20th century for a while, and it will take a bit of extricating before I can continue with the summary of our meeting. I thought I'd quickly verify that alcoholism killed Lewis, so I googled...and turned up a fascinating review of a biography of Lewis. The review is from The New Yorker (magazine) in 2002 and was beautifully written by none other than John Updike. The article caught me when it said, "Lewis typed with his two forefingers, which as he aged became so sensitive from hard use that he taped them. He produced the lesser novel The Prodigal Parents (1938) by writing from five in the morning until seven at night for two months. He composed two hundred and twenty-one thousand words of Main Street in fourteen weeks..." Updike compares 2 long biographies of Lewis and goes into some detail about Lewis' apparently colorful personality and other aspects of his life. If you are curious about Lewis the man, you will enjoy this article and maybe even the biographies! Click here to read Updike's review
At our meeting, Patty gave us some history about Sinclair Lewis and then launched a question and answer discussion that covered many salient aspects of the book. Patty summarized parts of the book before asking questions about them, which helped us to navigate this long book for our discussion. I will mention just a few insights from among 9 pages of notes that I took.
Dennis noticed a theme in the book: inertia! This was evident in Carol's ambitions and the results of those ambitions. Marla brought in the idea that Carol's multitude of ideas for change reflected the character's dissatisfaction with her life. Her efforts had little result, partly because of her own immature way of approaching people. On a later topic, Carol's relationship with Eric, Patty noted that Carol didn't understand that you can't change people quickly. This applies also to Carol's interactions with the town's leaders in trying to make changes. Lewis brought out the inertia of most of the conservative leaders, using sometimes rather funny satire to show how they dodged Carol's suggestions about changes. The mixture of excuses for staying with the status quo included the reality of warring factions sharing limited funds - a situation all too common in our world today.
As our conversation jumped around and back and forth a bit, I will list here some of the thoughts we had about Kennicott. When Patty asked about the episode when Carol tried to interest Kennicott in poetry, Jan said that Kennicott idolized Carol and tried to please her. Marsha said he was a father figure for Carol. Carla said Kennicott tried to be supportive but didn't "get" Carol. This was where we talked about Eric, and Pam said that Eric was the only one who really understood Carol. Janice said Kennicott seemed jealous of Eric. Pam later suggested that Carol returned from Washington DC because she realized that Kennicott was as good a husband as she was likely to find and that their relationship was probably as good as it gets.
The end of the book was acceptable to us as readers, just as it seemed to be acceptable to Carol. On Carol's return from Washington DC, upon learning that Kennicott intended to continue respecting Carol's having a separate room, Carla figured that Carol realized that her life on Main Street was the best of her choices. Our Carol G. said that Kennicott meant home and children to the Carol in the story. Carla said that in the end, Kennicott's role as the practical part of the parental partnership was acceptable to Carol (or maybe necessary?). Marla said that Kennicott would stay in control of his and Carol's lives and wouldn't change much. At the end of the book, Pam, and most of us, saw Carol as capitulating. Then Patty reminded us that there had been a hint in the book that Carol's life as a Mom would include planning her children's education, with all the grandiose hopes a mother can have for her children.
We then had a lively conversation about our experiences with small towns. Some funny anecdotes were mentioned, but you had to be there to hear those. A lot of us had grown up or lived in small towns. I wonder whether our children's book clubs reading Main Street when they are our ages will have many personal anecdotes about life on Main Street.