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While Soccer Fans Flipped Out, East Village Book Club Flipped Pages - The Local East Village Blog - NYTimes.com


While Soccer Fans Flipped Out, East Village Book Club Flipped Pages


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At the fountain.Melvin Felix

As Spanish soccer fans celebrated their Euro 2012 victory by thrashing in the Washington Square Park fountain yesterday afternoon, members of the East Village Book Club sat in a grassy corner of the park and pondered the birth of Frankenstein’s monster.

The book club had decided to take its monthly discussion, which usually occurs at Bar on A, outdoors for the first time since its inaugural meeting in Tompkins Square Park last November.

The book club.Melvin Felix The East Village Book Club

Sitting in a circle around cookies and chicken fajitas, the group of eight agreed that there was more to Mary Shelley’s classic novel than a mad scientist screaming, “It’s alive!”

“The movies massacred what the book was all about,” said Ranita Saha, a long-time member who commutes from the Bronx.

Jae Disbrow, the East Village resident who created the club, picked this month’s book for its philosophical and existential themes. “It gets a really bad rap,” she said. “I had to convince some of our members that it’s not like the book ‘Dracula.’ It has a lot of subtext and a lot of good things about it.”

Ms. Disbrow, a social worker who majored in English at the University of Vermont, founded the club on the website MeetUp.com after being disappointed by other options, which ran the gamut from a Hemingway-themed reading club to one that was too “girly.”

The East Village Book Club sticks to classics of fiction such as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar” and Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations,” which they read last month. Experimentation hasn’t proven successful: for the March meeting, the group read “The World of Yesterday,” the 1943 autobiography of Austrian writer Stefan Zweig. The new member who had recommended the book, which Ms. Disbrow found “dry and repetitive,” was so discouraged by the club’s reaction to it that she hasn’t attended a meeting since.

“Only one of our members finished it and it was because she was commuting on the Long Island Railroad for her job,” said Ms. Disbrow. “She was like, ‘It was terrible!’ But we still had a great time at the meeting.”

Though some readers come from nearby neighborhoods like Stuyvesant Town and the Lower East Side, most are commuters who come from the Upper East Side, Brooklyn and even New Jersey.

Frankenstein.Melvin Felix

Henry Zhang, an engineer who lives in Astoria, showed up to the meeting wearing a red España shirt, having taken an hour-long train ride from Queens after watching the match at a local burger joint.

“My friends stayed at a Spanish community center in Queens celebrating,” said Mr. Zhang, who has played soccer all his life and trains with a friend from Barcelona. “But this is a really great book club and it’s once a month. It’s kind of addictive.”