Here is February's Guest Post from Jeff Kamin, moderator of Books & Bars Book Club in Minneapolis, MN. Last month the group sat down to discuss Miranda July's No One Belongs Here More Than You and this month (on their 5th anniversary!) they tackled Lauren Groff's bestseller The Monsters of Templeton. Read on to see how discussion of a book not necessarily loved by all can still provoke a lively debate.
Books & Bars celebrated 5 years this month! Our 58th book was The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff. I was nervous going into the night's discussion having read some grumblings on our forum that it was not one of our better picks.
OK, so I was right…about the book not being well received but I was wrong to worry about it. It turned out to be one of our funniest and most enjoyable discussions. When you have references to bad David Spade films (Joe Dirt - but really, isn’t there only one good David Spade film, Tommy Boy?), the music of Prodigy, practical jokes mistaken for ghosts, and your bookseller/sponsor accidentally sitting on this piece of anniversary cake…how can you go wrong?
I was a little surprised by the somewhat negative reaction Monsters received. I don’t usually prefer a book review to be reduced to a simple 5 star rating, but with the advent of social networking book sites (you’ll find Books & Bars on Shelfari.com, Goodreads.com and Facebook) we’ve come to accept, nay, expect a book to be rated. I’d actually rate Groff’s debut about 3 – 3 ½ stars of 5. Many of our members would have rated it lower, though about 1/4 of the 100 people in attendance agreed with me.
I admired Groff’s ambitiousness but others felt it was her downfall. She may have tried to do too much in the historical saga with too many narrators. Our group didn’t like or believe most of these characters except for favorites, Charlotte and Cinnamon (pyrokinetic and poisoner) and the monster in the lake, Glimmey.
We wanted more of the monster, Glimmey. So much so that one member pulled out a homemade sign during the discussion and held it up in the back of the theater. More than a few of us did love the ending, especially the last few pages, but it didn’t seem enough to redeem the book entirely.
To give you an idea of our group’s sensibilities, The Monsters of Templeton was deemed to be too precious or twee for us. We’re looking for a little more darkness with our humor, a little more sharp edges, less neat and tidy corners. An example of a homecoming story we liked better was The Epicure’s Lament by Kate Christensen.
Feel free to recommend something.
I’m itching and anxious for a very well received book after two in a row that haven’t been up to our usual standards. Will I get it with a classic poli-sci-fi, The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin? Check back here next month to find out.