THE GROUP by Mary McCarthy (is my Girlfriend)Posted: February 19, 2013
WHAT THE BOOK IS ABOUT: I think my new favorite genre of book is “Really Great Books From a Long Time Ago That Everyone Kind of Forgot About But Why Did Everyone Forget About These Books Because They Rock The Disco?!?!”
(Can you tell I had no clue how to punctuate that last sentence. I think that’s because that last sentence was unpunctuate-able. I deserve dessert for that.)
Here’s my latest and greatest reading news. Last week I read an ARC of Harper Perennial’s re-release of the 1956 teen girl novel Chocolates For Breakfast, which I have mixed feelings about but ultimately I think I liked it a lot (I THINK, sometimes it takes me a spell to make my mind up about a book!) Then I read the 1935 adventure memoir Canoeing With the Cree which I have NO mixed feelings about, I just thought that book was the awesomest of sauce. And of course, there’s today’s Book Girlfriend, the 1963 novel The Group, the predecessor to HBO’s Girls and Sex and The City.
I found The Group by picking my way through this list from The Millions “Ten Books to Read Now That Girls is Back” I read Sheila Heti’s How Should A Person Be and am pretty positive I am the only person who writes for Book Riot who liked this one . I read Leigh Stein’s The Fallback Plan and thought it was, I want to use the right word here…. serviceable, I thought it was serviceable. Already read Elaine Dundy’s The Dud Avocado (which I LOVE), Sloane Crosley’s I Was Told There Would Be Cake (which I was… whatever), and when all was said and done that basically left The Group. So off I went to read!
The Group, written in 1963, begins in 1933, and follows a group of young Vassar grads (at the time an all-women’s school) through the next ten years of their life as they spread out around the country (but by and large stay NYC central) fall in love with men who are no good for them, deal with the guilt of being wealthy and the terrors of being poor, choose between children and careers, basically figuring out the same things in their twenties that American women in their twenties are still trying to figure out eighty years later. Each chapter stars a different member of the group, so the girls take turns playing leads and supporting characters, a structural device I loved to pieces. It really drove home the point that in any group, every individual member is going to feel like the center and star of the group (because of course that girl is the center and star of her own life).
I just ate this book up with a spoon, you guys! I found it so absorbing and relevant and thoughtful and shocking and provoking and great. Even though I know this book paved the way for SATC (Candace Bushnell’s editor specifically asked for “a modern version of The Group“) and now Girls, I felt like I was reading something wholly original when I read this book. If you’re looking for a great period read that feels like a great modern read and would make the most kick-butt of cable shows, check out The Group.
WHAT KIND OF GIRLFRIEND IS SHE: Such an old-fashioned peach with such modern and newfangled ideas!
MY DATE WITH “THE GROUP”:
We get together to have tea and gossip hard.
We tell the most scandalous gossip about our friends I cannot even print it!
Then we drink our tea!