#299 – On the Cliff’s Edge

My wife and I learned something about ourselves last night. In my case, I could no longer deny my tendency to hear what I want to hear. As Sophia realized, she shouldn’t let her desire for us to spend more quality time together push me into pursuits for which I’m ill-suited … like literature clubs.

She’s been dogging me for months to participate in her “Revisit the Classics” book club. Insisting my membership could only strengthen our relationship, she pestered me incessantly to give it a try. Her typical sales pitch went: “Reading a classic will be good for you, Richard. And we’ll have something fun to talk about, even outside the club!”

In response to each request, I asked Sophia to identify the title slated for the next meeting. None of them interested me in the least. As a result, my answer remained the same rote refusal: “Maybe next time, honey.”

Last month, having once more primed my standard reply, I instead found myself wholeheartedly opting in, upon hearing Sophia announce Lord of the Rings as the next classic to be read. Tolkien’s trilogy is my favorite literature of all time, and I felt more than willing to tackle the epic tale again. I grew so excited, I didn’t ask her follow-up questions. She didn’t ask me any either, probably because she didn’t want to chance a change of heart.

The book club met at our house yesterday after dinner. Having missed the meeting’s start due to professional obligations, I arrived to catch the tail end of a speaker’s pseudo-intellectual hogwash: “Obviously, when something that precious is stolen, there has to be a desperate need to get the property back. It’s that desperation which ultimately caused the plummet to his death. And plainly, Sameric’s passivity was instrumental in allowing the tragedy to play out.”

People who think they know it all really push my buttons, especially when they’re clearly bullshitting. Upon hearing this spouted gibberish, I couldn’t help but call the ignoramus out: “Can I ask you a question? Did you actually do the reading, or did you pull your observations from Cliff Notes?”

Surprise, surprise! He came clean. Admitting he’d lacked the time to read this month’s selection, he guiltily acknowledged perusing the Cliff Notes version of the tale. Having apologized, he turned to me and asked: “But how did you know?”

I confidently replied: “Well, for one thing, if you’d read the full story, you’d definitely know the hobbit’s name was ‘Samwise,’ not ‘Sameric.’ And after reading how he saved Frodo at Minas Morgul and fought Gollum on Mt. Doom, you’d never have called Sam ‘passive.’”

After listening to my analysis, the book club’s leader offered a minor correction: “Umm, Richard. I hate to tell you, but this month we’re reading Lord of the Flies, not Lord of the Rings.

A perfect entry for a book club, if you ask me.

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