The ambitious club reads a book a week, and rather than conduct stodgy meetings, its current members are bent on having fun while they discuss their current read.
By Oscar Antonino / Special to The Malibu Times
On a cold and wet Wednesday afternoon, the sounds of uproarious laughter filled the clubhouse at the Point Dume Beach Club. Although a passer-by could have easily mistaken the giggling to have originated from a group of young schoolgirls, it was instead a regular meeting of a group of women in their golden years who belong to the Malibu Book Discussion Group.
“We have a good time,” member Helen Warde said. “This is our therapy.”
As they sip tea and nibble on brownies, these women join together each week to discuss the latest novel they have read throughout the previous week. Having originated more than 20 years ago, the book club is still going strong.
Although all its current members are female, the late William Menger, who was a local resident and UCLA Professor Emeritus of Literature, founded the club in 1989. He died more than 11 years ago, but is remembered fondly.
“We all looked up to him,” group organizer Jean Linthicum said. “He made us reach.”
After years of meeting at the Malibu Community Center, the club now gathers every Wednesday at the Point Dume Beach Club from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. To this day, there are no fees to join and membership is open to all.
The club has varied in size and median age throughout the years, and is now comprised of what the group considers to be a comfortable number of participants.
“At one time we had about 14 people,” Linthicum said. “At our age there are several people who can’t hear very well, so people would be yelling ‘what?’ So that wasn’t so much fun.”
Membership now hovers around nine women, and there are no men at the moment. Each meeting, an average of six or seven will attend, and sometimes as few as four. There are no requirements and no obligations for members. If they decide not to read a book for whatever reason, that’s okay with them.
Meeting once a week instead of the usual once a month that most book clubs adhere to, the women are in a league of their own. With an average consumption of more than 300 pages a week, it is a testament to their devotion to literature.
“We get people who call and are interested in joining the group, but get turned off that it’s a book per week,” Linthicum said. “But it works for us.”
Their book selection process, above all else, strives to maintain an eclectic mix of literature.
“We read everybody … proudly,” Linthicum said.
“Just no serial romantic things,” Shariabati said. “The formula books, we don’t do.”
“Anything that’s on the bestseller list, forget it,” Warde added bluntly.
They restrict the choice of material to those that they know the local library and accompanying Book Mobile carry in sufficient stock. In the early years of the club, members purchased the books, but not anymore. Now they check the library’s Web site to verify how many copies are available.
The group seems to enjoy the idea of being more than just a stuffy book club.
“We do all like to laugh, I have to say,” Linthicum said.
“It helps with our digestion,” she added.
Her line is met with a chorus of laughs.
These women understand that they are a unique group in many ways. Mostly, they like to have fun and not take the discussion group too seriously.
“Over the years I have been in various other book groups, and we never had fun,” Marlane Zamm said. “This is the only one.”
Constantly joking and razzing one another, they even find time to affectionately mock a member who is not present.
“We’re a bit rambunctious,” Cynthia Green said as they all laughed, again.
Their meeting last Wednesday began with the playful over-usage of some obscure and challenging words, such as erudite (definition: characterized by great knowledge), and was subsequently followed by the discussion of selected passages from the novel they are currently reading: “The Elegance of the Hedgehog,” by Muriel Burberry.
After much light banter and a wealth of laughter, the ladies then went around the table and gave their opinion about the book. In this instance, all but one said they enjoyed the read.
“I didn’t like it,” Zamm said. “I found it off-putting. She [the author] had an attitude I found irritating.”
“You’re out!” Shariabati yelled to Zamm jokingly above the laughter her unique opinion had elicited.
Before the meeting concluded, they had discussed topics as varied as world food production, porcupine hunting, the Dark Ages, conspiracy theories and the death of print media. At one point Shariabati was telling a story about lobster racing, to which Bonne Schulzie asked her a question that brought down the house.
“How long do they survive?” Schulzie asked earnestly.
“Until dinner time,” Shariabati responded without missing a beat.
The women of the discussion group are a tight-knit bunch. Although they may have met through the club, they now consider themselves good friends and like-minded individuals.
“We are all readers,” Linthicum said. “It’s in the blood.”
Those interested in joining the club can call 310.456.6139.