But What Is It About?

Looking up in Barcelona: What is this?

We had book club this week.  And sadly, once again, I did not finish the book.  Heck, I barely even started it (100 pages into Wally Lamb’s 700 page THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED).  I’m usually the snob who raises her hackles at those who don’t read the books.  Why be in a book club then? I think.  Not reading the book is rude, like when somebody gives you a nice gift and you don’t bother with a thank you.  I’m disappointed in me.

Everyone who finished the book loved it, but they also said you needed to “get past the Columbine stuff” and 150 pages before it kicked in.  So I guess I can blame myself for a lack of stick-to-it-ness, or no attention span.  I just kept thinking, What in the world is this about? and then I put the book down, threw up my hands, and gave up.


It’s my turn to host book club for May, which also means I picked our next book:  LIT, a memoir by Mary Karr.  We don’t really read memoirs in this group, so it will be, well, interesting.  I’ve read it twice, and listened to it on audio a few times as well; that’s how much I love the story and the way only Mary Karr can tell it.  Yet, when I tried to describe what it’s about to that roomful of book-clubbers, I had a hard time.  So I sent them this great video:

Inside my head, the proverbial light bulb flashed:  I also have a hard time stating, succinctly, what my own WIP is about.  What’s your book about? people ask (seeming truly interested) and then I gawk at them with the blankest of blank faces while I struggle to spit out something unintelligible.  Watching this Mary Karr video over and over again is helping me find my words.

15 thoughts on “But What Is It About?

  1. Lyra

    I want to read this book so badly. There is just never enough time.

    I have the same problem with the what is it about quesion. The further I get, the less I know.

    1. Teri Post author

      My only saving grace is this: in all of my short pieces, I get lost before I get found. This is how it works; in a way it’s what tells me I’m writing freely and not forcing it. So I figure writing this book is going to be the same. Only I have to let myself get about 20 times more lost than usual before I stumble into the light. It’s tough.

  2. Averil Dean

    See, this is why I am afraid of book clubs. I’d be that slacker every month.

    Lit sounds like a good choice; I like what she says about her husband’s family being the anti-venom. I want to hear your spiel, Teri. What’s your book about?

    1. Teri Post author

      What IS it about?!?!? This is what keeps me up at night. Literally, lying awake for hours, plotting phrases and trying to link things together …. it’s exhausting, yet it doesn’t get any more of the actual writing done. Imagine.

  3. MacDougal Street Baby

    I’ve got in on my nightstand, alongside Stop-Time, Volt, Memory Wall, and Oxygen (my own book club challenge.) If it weren’t for these darn kids sucking the life out of me, I’d be *happy as a clam.

    *I never understood this idiom. Anybody?

    1. Teri Post author

      This sounds pretty good:

      Happy as a clam is a portion of a phrase quite commonly used in the US in the early 19th century. It even made it into the poetry of John G. Saxe, who wrote Sonnet to a Clam and waxed poetic about the secure state of clams when they are immersed completely in water. Happy as a clam is only a portion of the phrase, and the full phrase should be “happy as a clam in high water,” or at high tide.

      Anyone who has ever hunted for clams knows they must be dug when the tide is low. They’re almost impossible to find in high tide, and it would be dangerous to venture too far out into deep water. Thus a clam can said to be quite happy at high tide, since it’s in no danger, at least from humans, of being made into a meal.

      1. MacDougal Street Baby

        Thanks, Teri! Now I want to come up with a new one like, “low tide sadness” or “weepy as a clam at low tide,” or “accessible sorrow.” Forget all this half glass full crap. Let’s get down to some good ol’ fashioned heartache.

  4. lisahgolden

    Oy, the about question. All of my stories are about the same thing – wanting something different. The only difference is whether getting that something different is a good thing or a bad thing.

    I know I got huffy at Karr while I read The Liars’ Club but I really want to read Lit. Can we increase the days to contain more hours, please?

  5. Sherry Stanfa-Stanley

    This is exactly why I won’t join a book club. As much as I like to talk about books, I only want to read what I CHOOSE to read. My God, at last count I had 32 books in my house that I bought and have not yet read. No way will I commit to finishing one that doesn’t even interest me.

    And what is my own WIP about? I’d answer you, but I’d cringe and cry and reconsider as soon as the words were out of my mouth.

  6. Downith

    I belonged to a great book club 10 years ago. Now, I’m happy to keep it informal and just chat randomly to people about what I’m reading.

    Lit does sound intriguing Teri. And I hear you on describing what your book is about.

  7. amyg

    alright, i’m using your post as exercise:

    my fiction novel:

    MMM is about three women who find that the things they have been avoiding their whole life are the very things they need to make their lives worth living.

    my nonfiction:

    The first 365 days are the hardest is about one woman who committed herself to writing one blog post a day for 365 days to stop mindless living and start living mindfully.

    (i know, it’s kinda the same book told in different styles. whatever.)

    i’ve been working on these for awhile, because there’s nothing that makes me feel more productive when i’m procrastinating than working on things with my book doesn’t actually involve WRITING the book, right? I started by writing what I would put on the back of the book and then widdled it down from there…three paragraphs to one paragraph with six long sentences to two sentences to…what i listed here.

    it is raining so hard here right now, i can barely see outside. this is a sure sign that i need another cup of coffee.

  8. Laura

    Love that video! I should start practicing how to describe what my books are about. I always go first to the novel I’m working on, but this exercise might actually be more helpful for my short story collection, which I have no freaking clue how to explain.

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