“We should read to give our souls a chance to luxuriate.” - Henry Miller
There is nothing so luxurious as curling up in a favorite chair with a good book. The ability to take the time to shut the world out, to lose oneself in the words and the vision of another human being is the height of indulgence. For many, a good book is nourishment, and depriving them of this sustenance is akin to starvation.
When I was working a crazy corporate job it was impossible to free read. Any reading I did was related to the telecommunications industry, and other books were reserved for the two weeks of vacation I took each year. When we relocated to Tampa I became a stay-at-home mom. I loved it.
I became close friends with my neighbor and we decided to form a book club. This was seventeen years ago, mind you, before the Oprah book club. I was diligent in the first five years or so in keeping track of the literature we devoured. Our taste is very eclectic, ranging from classics to “The Bridget Jones Diary.” Our club still exists, with five of the original members.
“Some books are meant to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” – Francis Bacon, Sr.
One of the things I came to appreciate was how we chose a book. We did read N.Y. Times best sellers, but we also relied heavily on recommendations from friends. We disagreed often. The lively discussions, we joked, kept our mommy brains from turning into mush.
Two weeks after my third surgery in four months, (or “The Year of the Apocalypse” as I call it), I found myself sitting in the cozy kitchen of a friend, invited by her book club to discuss my first novel. I was still in a post-surgical daze, so I brought a pad with me to take notes. After they were done with their questions and had complimented me heartily on how much they enjoyed the book I asked a loaded question.
“What didn’t you like about the book?”
There was a brief silence. These are very sweet women, and they were probably weighing whether they should criticize my work while I sat before them in my frail condition. I assured them it would be very helpful to me. One of the women, a French Literature graduate of Yale University, spoke up.
“Your first murder should have been sooner. I liked all the fashion and food, but the next time please kill someone earlier in the novel.”
Everyone else agreed with this. One woman leaned forward and looked at me earnestly.
“Is (character name) in the next book? She is fascinating and I want her in the next one.”
I admitted I wasn’t planning on putting her in the second book of the series.
“Well, I disagree. She is an intriguing character, and after you made me like her, I want to read more about her.”
I promised her that, since I had only written about sixty pages, I would strongly consider her suggestion. She smiled and sat back in her chair, happy to know that she would meet this character in a future novel.
My most recent experience with a local book club taught me a very important lesson about proper proofreading. It was a bit surreal to walk into a conference room where ten women waited eagerly for me, the author of the book to be discussed. They were wonderfully inquisitive, and the questions they asked showed that they had gotten a lot out of the book. One woman said she realized, as she was reading my novel, that either I had had to do extensive research to write this, or I knew a lot of rich people. I assured her that it was research.
Finally, I asked my loaded question. “What didn’t you like about the book?”
One of the women leaned back and sighed with frustration.
“There were a lot of errors. The spelling of a character’s name changed later in the book. It really distracted me.”
I know I blushed. I can’t even remember how many times I proofed the book to check for things like this. A novel with obvious errors was not the standard I had hoped for in my first published work.
Another woman said, “…and Miranda would NEVER say, “Can I have a glass of water?” She would say, “May I have a glass of water?”
Fair enough. I had asked the question and received the answer.
Another woman spoke up, “I didn’t even notice the errors. I was so involved with the story!”
I asked the woman who had noticed the errors what she did for a living.
I was not at all upset with these ladies. They are my customers, and every single one of them had purchased a paperback copy, which I signed. The next day I received an e-mail from one of the book club members. In it she gave me the name of a book we had discussed that evening about food that she highly recommended. She ended her e-mail, “… and I don’t care about the errors in the book. I really enjoyed it. Please let us know when you are finished with the next one. I can’t wait to read it!”
I always try to learn from a mistake. The last thing I want is a spelling error distracting a reader from the story. My solution is simple – I have handed a copy of the book to a good friend with a red pen. Even a diamond has flaws, and I will own up to the fact that the novel is not perfect. When my friend has completed the proofing, I will fix the errors, and republish it. Is this not what a revised edition is?
“If there is a book you want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” - Toni Morrison
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L. A. Lewandowski is a Contributing Author for Indies Unlimited and author of the novel, Born To Die – The Montauk Murders. For more information, please see the IU Bio Page and her blog:cultureandcuisineclub.com.