By Daniel Roberts
Fourteen readers, diverse in race and age, have all come from different parts of Brooklyn (and one from Manhattan) to meet at Ozzie’s coffee shop in Park Slope. This month’s selection is Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.
“So, we did not like the book,” says the group’s organizer facetiously after much boisterous criticism. “Let’s get some other thoughts on this. I want to know what people have to say about why Crake decides to kill the human race.”
The five men and nine women are seated around a narrow, low coffee table littered with copies of the book. Most hold cups of coffee. Everyone is well dressed. All four of the younger men wear crisp dress shirts; the collars peek out from underneath V-neck sweaters. There is only one couple among them, an elderly pair who sit together on a couch. “The ending bothered me,” says the older woman, to which her husband nods profusely.
“I know, I know,” says a tall, slim man with glasses and a thick Australian accent. He, it becomes clear, is the group’s most dominant participant.
“She never answers anything,” begins a young Argentine man with a ponytail and goatee. “I think, bad writer. This was just too much, too much crazy stuff going on, it was like those Harry Potter books!”
The Australian man pipes up immediately. “Oi, careful, I love those books.”
“Okay,” says the organizer, restoring order to the discussion. “A lot of you have mentioned immorality. So, wiping out an entire species has got to be one of the most immoral things you can do.”
“I should think so!” says the older woman. Her husband is quick to follow with a joke: “Ehhh….” he says with an exaggerated shrug of his shoulders. She hits his shoulder playfully. The others watch with amusement.
“I didn’t understand why Crake had to wipe out the human race,” says a young woman in a corner who had not spoken yet. The Argentine man begins ranting again. “Yes, well, no motivation, no reasons for anything! And the names of things were so silly! English is my second language and even me, I saw ‘rakunk’ and I’m like, come on! Raccoon and skunk, I get it, you can do better!”
“Right, right,” says the Australian man. “Or how ‘pigoon’ was a cross between pig and baboon. A five-year-old could come up with those names.”
The book discussion soon winds down, but when the Australian man brings out his Kindle it ignites a new conversation. Most hate the idea of an e-reader and they tease the Australian for having one. He defends it to the death. “This is the best invention ever!” he says. “It makes reading so easy.”
The organizer, seemingly weary from having been one of only two people who liked the book, gets the most heated. “What could be easier than this?!” he asks, holding up his copy of the novel. “Why don’t you support a used bookstore, or better yet go get it from the library.”
“But why would I do that when it’s more convenient for me to get it instantly from Amazon?” counters the Australian.
“You’re sounding a lot like Crake,” answers the organizer, and everyone laughs and begins to pack up their things.