published Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Book club keeps focus on all things classic

On a Tuesday night at Pasha Coffee & Tea in St. Elmo, the Classic Literature Book Club gathers.

Tonight, they are discussing a seminal work of Southern literature: Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Joel Swanson, founder of the club, opens with three questions:

Did you finish the book?

Had you read it before?

Did you like it?

"I'm disappointed she's never written anything else," said Denise Oldham, the only one in the group to actually finish the volume, though most said they had read it previously.

Swanson admits he did not finish because he was too busy reading "The Hunger Games" series in preparation for the movie.

Linda-Jane Cofield notes that she will have to watch the movie. The other women in the room sigh, remembering Gregory Peck's heroic performance as Atticus Finch. But for Cofield, another character stands out from the book.

"Scout is a riot," she said. "Oh my Lord. She has me laughing constantly, and she's smarter than me, which is slightly demoralizing. It brings to light that a child just sees things for what they are."

The conversation veers off-topic a bit to the relationship between author Lee and Truman Capote, but Swanson gently steers the room back.

They discuss the representations of parenthood and the character of Atticus Finch as a father.

"Harper Lee gives us a very rich portrait of fatherhood," said Mary Wright, a retired economist who joined the club to catch up on some reading she'd missed during a very numbers-heavy career.

"Whenever there is a void in your life, you make up for it during the retirement years," she said.

Like Wright, Swanson, who founded the club in 2008, had the desire to add more classical fiction to his repertoire.

"I wanted a group of people to read classics with," he said. "Left to my own devices, I read largely nonfiction."

He said the club has introduced him to books he might not have otherwise read, such as Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited," Kate Chopin's "The Awakening," and Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice."

"Obviously, that's a well-known one, but it's one that I would never have picked up on my own."

The Classic Literature Book Club meets 6-7:30 p.m. the fourth Tuesday of every month at Pasha Coffee & Tea, 3914 St. Elmo Ave.

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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