The Morgenstern Book Club


She sat in the corner of the big wooden table in a computer office chair, different than the others. When the brother explained that it wasn’t real, the Morgenstern, there was no other original book, she just, wait, what? No. No way!

She looked back over the long scroll messages with her friend, and read them aloud to the group, because the book club was also deeply interested in if her friend was going to come, and why hadn’t she come, and yes, they had talked about it. But wait, what, exactly, was the deal? She couldn’t quite remember. But it was important, even if you did the reading but weren’t there for the food and the discussion on the second Thursday of the month, you weren’t really in the club, and your invitation would get rescinded and gifted to someone else. There was, like, a waiting list of other people wanting to join.

“So then I said that it was going to be high up Empire Grade and so maybe it would be too much hassle to get up there on a school night and then I made the” — and she stuck her tongue out to the side in that goofy smile and closed one eye and kind of turned her head to the side — you know the one —  😜 “face.”

She kept scrolling back up, and it seems like perhaps the friend in her phone had been pulling her leg a little bit, about the original Morgenstern, used the winky-face. The older one, but you probably know that one, too. 😉

The brother laughed, really, at the face. Non-verbal emojii. Her face was tan, not yellow, but she kind of seemed like a bit of a goofball and endearing. Earnest.

When you hosted bookclub, you picked the book. The host had read it when she was thirteen. She was nervous about her pick. It seemed like everyone was nervous about their own choices. You wanted people to like it. Her older brother had given it to her. “It should have been when you were ten,” one of the other women joked, her hair also in curls. It’d been in the seventies, so she read the book first, the movie years from production hell and its eventually release.

Yes, that was the joke you would make. About being ten. If they’d all read it, they would know and laugh about it. Most of them did. Some more than the others. The others had been refilling their bubbly waters. Although if you just saw the movie, cheated your way through book club, maybe not. You were cheating yourself, really.

And so that was the “in”, the brother had felt, to talk about the whole abridgments business he’d been running over constantly in his mind. He saw the movie first, at a midnighter when he was eighteen (not ten), or quite possibly before on the bus ride back when he’d successfully landed his first kiss (although maybe that had been Holy Grail, it was tough to tell the difference when you weren’t watching and hadn’t seen either of them yet). And then, in thinking there wouldn’t be enough time to actually read the whole thing in the ten days before the group met, he downloaded the audio book, which in its three hours felt remarkably hewn directly from the film, and so now there were four versions. The original, supposedly real but clearly fictional novel within a novel, that the reader could imagine. That was one. The narrator’s abridgment, supposedly the official text as far as the narrative was concerned (and what was or wasn’t canon seemed to be an open question; and what wasn’t [re]printed seemed just as important, possibly even more important). Two. So then he found the full book on his Kindle. Three. And in the reading there, what hadn’t been abridged, became a kind of fourth book, the remainder when you divided or subtracted the third text version reading from the second audio version narrated by the film’s director. And then there was the film itself, that would make a fifth version. And those subtractions and deltas between abridgments felt to him to be so illustrative and clever, to be thinking about editing and revision himself, and negotiating all these different versions in his head. And so when he’d finished, thinking it was just about the most enjoyable novel he’d read, and certainly he’d rank it as one of his most favorite books (already!), then he found that there were two more versions, somehow. A Twenty-fifth and a Thirtieth anniversary edition. Combined together. His sister had that copy, the green one, that he perhaps could have just started with.

He said about one-fifth of those thoughts aloud to the group.

But what was more interesting to the group was wondering why Stephen King showed up in the later editions, in that more recent edition, about the baby. “Well, there’s an interesting connection between this and Stand By Me.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, they’re both stories written from a recollective perspective, about someone who was an author, remembering a story from his childhood.”

There was a sound of agreement and recognition here.

“Also, Rob Reiner directed both of the films. So he probably does know Stephen King. But I think that’s all fake, too. Except the parts about the filming. I think that part is real. At least, the parts about Andre the Giant.”

If anything about anyone could be true.






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