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  • Gail Wilson Kenna

Looking Back with Pleasure at the RCC-RILL Experimental Book Club

We read ten novels in 2023, two each for five meetings:

As I Lay Dying (William Faulkner)

& A Woman in Jerusalem (A.B. Yehoshua)

Man’s Fate , in French La Condition Humane (Andre Malraux) & The Moviegoer (Walker Percy)

Too Late the Phalarope (Alan Paton)

& Disgrace (J.M. Coetzee)

To the Lighthouse (Virginia Woolf) & The Sea (John Banville)

Ironweed (William Kennedy)

& Lila (Marilynne Robinson)

The novelists were from five other countries: Israel, France, South Africa, U.K, Ireland


Four novelists from USA locales: Mississippi, Louisiana, New York, Iowa

Each duo of novels had multiple connections: such as a Southern mother and a Russian mother in coffins being transported “home,” two novels with existential wars occurring: one political in China, one personal in New Orleans. Two novels centered on sexual indiscretion with severe punishment for two South African men during apartheid and our modern PC times. Two novels with the sea used in literal and figurative ways; and two novels with homelessness, exile, and the unforgettable characters, Francis and Lila.

Note: The shortest novel we read was The Moviegoer at 195 pages, and the longest Man’s Fate at 366 (in the editions I read). And there was no problem finding copies to purchase on-line.

There were twelve members in this club, excluding me, the moderator. And next week we will gather for a sixth meeting to share thoughts about how this book club went and who wishes to try another year. Whether we continue or not, I met a personal goal in my eighth decade of life. Which was to be in a book club where serious literature was read, where most members had read the novels more than once and given serious thought to them. No judging of a novel, in other words, without having read it in depth. And I believe we did this.

What was our book club’s mantra? “The nature of our limited ego-consciousness stands in the way of our seeing how much stories can tell us about the limitations of our consciousness.” In other words, we attempted not to be tourists but to be open-minded wanderers in diverse literary worlds. And diverse they were with the ten novels listed above. Lastly, many thanks to RCC-Kilmarnock for use of the conference room, to RILL’s Brittany Jenkins for handling communication, and to each book club member for contributing to RCC’s Educational Fund.

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