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Book Reviews

Milt Gross Book Review: "No! I Don't Want to Join a Book Club, Diary of a 60th Year" by Virginia Ironside.
By Milton M. Gross
Oct 7, 2012 - 12:45:53 AM

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I don't want to join a book club either, which is only one of the topics Virginia Ironside covers in her No! I Don't Want to Join a Book Club. Milt Gross photo.
When this one came in the mail,* I immediately glanced through it. I found it so nutty, I started reading it.

And found it to be hilarious.

Published by Penguin Group, Inc., 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014 in 2006, this paperback is billed as a novel. And it is, since it is fiction, but it is in the form of diary entrees. This eliminates the need for a long, involved plot, although there is a subtle one.

Through this plot, I began to suspect the outcome a bit over halfway through, and in the end it was exactly like I thought. The plot covers her promise to never....oh, never mind. You need to read it to find out about the promise and how ..."Marie Sharp, retired art teacher, divorced, one cat and resolutely single after about one million failed relationships, am determined to give it a final crack. A diary, that is. Not a relationship."

That quote from page one, where I realize the plot I discovered about halfway through actually begins, shows Ironside's writing style. It also shows how subtle she is, since I didn't discover the plot she unveils on page on until I finally discovered it...way into those pages.

On October 10, she records, "Have just come home, gasping with relief, from a dinner party. I was hoodwinked into accepting the invitation because my old friend Marion rang using the well-worn trick: 'What are you doing on Thursday?' and instead of saying cautiously: 'Why?,' I fell into the trap.

'Nothing,' I said.

Years ago my late son-in-law suggested that if you don't want to do something, say, "No."

So simple, been doing it for years. Takes the need for excuse making away. Just say, "No," as in the ads for kids to turn down drugs. Should they ask you way, just say, "I don't want to."

Try arguing with, "I don't want to."

But not Marie. She accepts. Two pages later she gets around to it, "The moment I entered the dinner party (awash with gray heads) I knew I was in trouble. You arrive at 8:15 and there is no way you can leave until after 11:00. Dinner parties can be mini-prison sentences, only you don't get out early for good behavior."

Same dinner party. Love this description, "'Yes,' said Mrs. Glasses-on-Strings, trying to ingratiate herself with me. 'You're only as old as you feel. Sixty years young.'

"'Sixty going on twenty!' said the therapist."

Makes me feel good. I used to be 29.5. Now I'm going on 29.5 going on 29.5, thanks to a bit of self disillusionment. I hate it when people open doors for me at a restaurant and call me "Sir."

They hold that door for me because of my walking stick, which, I hasten to explain, perhaps to maintain that 29.5ish, that it really is a Rottweiler stick. When you have one of these sticks and you meet a Rottweiler, you can out limp it -- any Rottweiler.

Via my not-as-good-as-it-should-be leg, I do have an idea what it will be like when I reach 60 -- again.

Coming down mountain trails, I used to leap from one boulder to another. Now I walk through the underbrush to avoid them.

My boss asked me, "What will you do when you can't hike?"

Answer, two years in the making, "I'll find an easier path and walk. More slowly."

I used to leap into the canoe. Now I have to get the good leg in and then figure out how to get my not-as-good-as-it-should-be leg aboard.

I understand No! I Don't Want to Join a Book Club a bit too well. Maybe when I get older I'll understand it better.

For now, though, it has renewed my interest in not growing any older.

I do understand Marie's problem with some technology, such as the DVD player. Dolores and I are still figuring ours out after let's see....too many years. If at the end of the evening, you hit "Stop," it opens the next time at the very beginning. What a pain, trying to remember where you left off while racing through it at speed #4. If you hit "Pause," something else happens. Maybe it starts again where you left off. Or the other way around. I forget now.

"Spent the entire day struggling with the DVD," Ironside writes Marie's diary entree. "I got the scart (Did I mention that Marie lives sin London, England, not Connecticut?) plug sorted out, and then the telly went blue and the word DVD came up...so clearly it was all working. But when I put a disc in, it kept saying that there was no disc in. I eventually drew a blank and had to ring Jack (her son).

"'I've put it in, and nothing happens,' I said.

"'Mum,' said Jack, with that cautious note in his voice that I knew means: 'I can't believe you're such a total idiot.' 'Which way are you putting it?'

"'The right way,' I said. 'Silver side up.'

"'That's the wrong way up,' he said, and I could practically hear his eyebrows crashing against the ceiling.

"'But the other side's got all writing on it,' I explained. 'And pictures.'

"'That's the side you want,' he said."

And so it goes. Not a book of jokes, exactly. There is a plot that runs through the diary entries.

And, if you're as smart as I am, you'll discover it, about halfway through. And when, at the end, oh, darn, never mind.

Discover it yourself.

* Very occasionally, a company mails me a book to review, which is how this one ended in my hands. Unlike the last book mailed to me to review, this one gets a very positive referral should you be in the mood for this kind of book -- or if you're turning 60. The price on the inside is listed as $14, and you may be able to find it in a bookstore, at Amazon.com, or in your neighbor's mailbox should he or she have ordered it and then gone away without having his or her mail held.

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at lesstraveledway@midmaine.com.

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2012

Milt Gross Down the Road A Piece Column

Milt Gross Book Reviews


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