Thursday, July 08, 2010

Bar Book Club

We had our reading group last night at Coopersmiths, discussing Why We Hate Us by Dick Meyer.

Beer of choice: Wayfarer Copper Ale, which is a new one, as far as I can recall.

I wasn't expecting to enjoy this book. I went in thinking it would be a rather facile list of all the things about our society that grate on us. Something that might be entertaining for an article in a magazine but not at book length. Instead I found it to be a thought-provoking book, all about how the societal shifts of the past decades have left us much less connected to, well, anything we can really identify with, and how that lack of connection leads to so much that annoys and frustrates us (about politics, media, Hollywood). It's not, though, a nostalgic, everything-was-better-in-the-50s book, to be clear. Rather it's how earlier society (including the 50s) for all the negative things there might have been part of that mindset, provided certain tools for countering this kind of selfish self-hatred. So now that we've left those times behind and enjoy all kinds of freedoms that weren't possible then...what new ways can we find of countering that?

In the end Meyer ties it in, somewhat at least, with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which I found to be a very powerful book when I read it seven or eight years ago. The narrator's sense of Quality as a philosophical value, which is pretty much the same thing Meyer calls Authenticity, is what we need to forge for ourselves through our choices and actions.

Anyway, I don't mean to rehash the full argument, but I was pleasantly surprised to find I enjoyed the book as much as I did, even if I didn't agree with everything he said. The discussion was good as well. Our next book is Faulkner's Light in August, which makes it the second Faulkner in about a year and a half. (There was some nashing of teeth on that count with someone who hadn't really appreciated Go Down Moses...)

2 comments:

Lauren Michelle said...

I might have to pick this book up. Living in Canada for awhile has done strange things to my national identity, and it opens new windows into the issue of cultural self-loathing... for both countries, and against both countries too.

I read Light in August in high school and really enjoyed it, but I'm a Faulkner devotee generally. After As I Lay Dying I'd say it's his most accessible novel.

Daniel Ausema said...

It'll make my third Faulkner (the other being The Sound and the Fury). I'm looking forward to this one.

And I'd say it's worth checking out Why We Hate Us. The other big touchstone for the book (or at least what I took away from the book) is Catcher in the Rye. Essentially phoniness is at the heart of most of the things we hate.