It sometimes happens that a book that no one particularly likes generates an excellent discussion. This was the case with Canadian writer Diane Schoemperlen’s book At A Loss For Words. One woman in my book club actually said: “I knew you wouldn’t want me to finish it.”
I didn’t actually have any trouble finishing the book, but not because it was the most original or beautiful or innovative book I’ve ever read about the nature of love. The story is rife with cliches and prose so purple you might think you’re scarfing grape jelly by the jar.
An unnamed woman rekindles a relationship with an old boyfriend. She and this guy (also unnamed) had a fairly serious thing which, one gathers, ended rather badly 30 years ago. She’s a writer, but since renewing her relationship with this guy, she’s unable to write. The story (such as it is) consists mostly of her lists of writing prompts and her e-mail correspondence with the man a sort of he said, she said only in this case it’s I said, you said.
To say that I didn’t believe a word of what they said to each other would be harsh, but really who talks like this?
“I do appreciate these thoughts. I want to say how much I welcome and treasure everything you say. Your letters are too wonderful! You life my spirits immeasurably with all that you write. You warm me up on this gray damp day” (59).
As soon as this relationship is consummated, it begins to unravel. The woman starts clinging and the man starts pulling away and the denouement is neither original or shocking. In addition, you sort of wanted to shake her a little; I mean, she’s a successful writer and she’s not 20- couldn’t she sort of see this coming?
Still, who hasn’t been in love with the wrong guy…maybe even the wrong guy on more than one occasion. Hands up! So, while none of us were enamoured with Schoemperlen’s rather writerly tale, we had lots and lots of fun talking about rekindled passion, first love and our very first (after 10 years in book club) discussion of orgasms.
1. How possible is it to fall in love with the same person?
2. Is each new love the best love, cancelling out all others?
3. Do you think love makes us stupid? In what ways?
4. Think back to your first love and your early sexual experiences. Is it possible to rekindle/recapture those feelings?
5. How has e-mail changed the way you communicate?
6. Is this a ‘true’ story? Why or why not.
7. The big ‘reveal’ at the end…did it actually add anything to the book.
8. Do people really talk the way they do in this book? Why do you suppose Schoemperlen choose the language she did to express her characters’ feelings?
Dense Chocolate Torte Gourmet
I got this recipe from Epicurious. Everyone loved it!
Yield: Makes 12 to 16 servings
Active Time: 25 min
Total Time: 10 1/2 hr (includes chilling)
1/2 cup water
8 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 large eggs, beaten
Equipment: a 9-inch springform pan; a large (18-inch) roll of heavy-duty foil
Accompaniment: whipped cream (optional)
Preheat oven to 300&Deg;F with rack in middle. Wrap outside of cake pan in plastic wrap, then wrap tightly in a layer of foil.
Lightly butter pan, then dust with sugar, knocking out excess.
Heat 1 cup sugar with 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool.
Melt chocolates in a large bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water (do not let bowl touch water), stirring occasionally, until melted. Stir together butter (2 sticks) and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in another bowl until combined. Stir butter mixture into melted chocolate. Then stir in sugar syrup. Gently stir in eggs (avoid making bubbles) until combined. 3Transfer to pan and bake in a hot water bath until center is almost set (it should barely wobble), about 45 to 50 minutes.