Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Book Club Exchange: Ursula DeYoung

I'd like to welcome author Ursula DeYoung to Book Club Exchange. Ms. DeYoung is the author of the new novel SHORECLIFF, a story of a summer-long family reunion told by the observant (or should I say nosy?) thirteen-year-old Richard. I recently finished it and will be posting my review shortly, and I have to say that it's a well written novel about a very interesting family!

I am so glad that Ms. DeYoung has written this fantastic guest post about her experience with a book club (of sorts) as a child and the long-lasting effect it has had on her.

I’ve never been part of a formal book club, but in my childhood I spent two weeks every summer on Long Island with my younger sister and a small group of friends who—now that I look back on it—served the same purpose. When I was quite young, maybe nine or ten, we all developed an obsession with Sherlock Holmes. Every day we read aloud from Arthur Conan Doyle’s collected stories, and in the following summers we continued the tradition. Our favorites were “The Lion’s Mane” and “The Devil’s Foot,” but we must have read all of them at least once over the years. After one or two stories, summer antsiness would get to us and we would run outside to go to the beach or play Piggy Wants a Signal (inspiration, years later, for the game the Hatfield cousins play in Shorecliff), but the two battered volumes of Holmes and Watson would soon lure us back. 

When we knew every word of “The Lion’s Mane” and could cite every instance of Holmes’s amazing deductive powers, we branched out, reading G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown stories and bloodcurdling entries from an old copy of Mysteries of the Unexplained. Holmes remained a favorite, but as we grew older, the endless hours of our summer visits seemed to dwindle, and there was less time for reading aloud. We began our last book when we were well into our teens; we had all read it before, and reading it aloud was simply a chance to savor its genius together: Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, still one of my all-time favorites. But we never finished the book, and it’s been years now since we were all in the same place at the same time. 

The pleasure of our communal reading has lasted, though—to this day I often share newly discovered literary gems with these friends. And I have something more concrete than memories from those times because for a few years, towards the end, we decided to try writing stories of our own. I was already writing independently, as were my sister and our friend Frank, but these stories were a group effort; we called them Stories in the Round. Our method was simple: I sat at a computer, frantically typing while all of us called out sentence after sentence, overlapping with each other, causing the plot to zigzag from one crazy idea to the next. Most of the time was spent laughing hysterically, and it was all I could do to stitch our shouted phrases into some sort of coherence. We usually ended with a few pages of nonsense that no one but us could understand. But I still read them every once in a while—they still make me laugh, and I don’t believe anyone has written a more bizarre and brilliant spoof than our nineteen-page story called “Harry Potter and the Fraternity of the Phoenix.” 

Ursula DeYoung graduated from Harvard College in 2004 and received her Ph.D. in History from Oxford in 2009. She is the author of a nonfiction book on 19th-century physicist John Tyndall, A Vision of Modern Science. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Make sure you stop by Linus's Blanket tomorrow for the next stop in the SHORECLIFF tour!

A huge thanks to Ms. DeYoung for participating in Book Club Exchange!

If you are interested in participating in a future Book Club Exchange, please contact me at bookingmama(at)gmail(dot)com.   


bermudaonion said...

That sounds like so much fun! What a great group of friends.

Beth F said...

What a hoot to write group spoofs! Sounds like summers could be magical.