Jack’s Great Books Salon

Tonight was set aside as book club night, which won’t happen as Jack is unavailable.

This year represents the 20th anniversary of the founding of Jack’s Great Book Salon; I’ve only been on board for the past ten.

Book club has really thinned out since I joined (Jack insisted that it wasn’t because I joined…), which had an unusually positive side benefit for me personally – there were the occasional meetings when the rest of the group would drop off, and so the evening would be just Jack and myself.

I am realizing today what a true blessing that was.

In the interest of full disclosure, I thought of dropping out of book club a couple years back, but kept re-upping for another year just for the guaranteed monthly hang out time with Jack.

Jack’s sense of humor wasn’t the knee-slapping variety, but rather a wry wit. When scheduling upcoming meetings, he would often sneak in sly references to the book in his dialogue.

Here are some samples.


For the first meeting after Sling Baby won the Super Bowl competition (Jack was on the creative team), it was Dante’s Inferno:

While there is still some residual Sling Baby celebration going on, it’s time to go to hell…

Rather than use the book title, Jack referred to The Odyssey as:

…that precursor to Gilligan’s Island.

We decided to meet at Marie Callendar’s to discuss No Exit. I joked that we have to be careful to not be trapped there for all eternity; Jack responded:

There would be worse places to be trapped – especially if they kept the pies coming…

When prepping to meet to discuss The Importance of Being Ernest, Jack signed all his e-mails as:

Jack (in the country…)

For the discussion of Henry V, we met at a French restaurant; Jack called it an invasion.

When discussing Kristin Lavransdatter, I joked that I would have to sneak out to book club to avoid scandal. Jack’s response:

Ah yes, I remember when I too had a good reputation to defend…

We hadn’t settled on a location for our discussion of The Maltese Falcon. I accused Jack of being cagey with the information. His response:

Just don’t try to put a tail on me.  I can see those goons a block away…

For The Picture of Dorian Gray:

We’ll be meeting in my chambers. I’ll provide the liquid refreshments. Formal evening attire is not required.

When deciding to meet at his place for Crime & Punishment, he did make this request:

 Just so you don’t ask any questions about the strange assortment of items I’ve stuffed inside my coat, or the bloody axe in the corner…

For Joyce’s Ulysses, Jack recommended a voxlibris read – where fans read aloud and record the book chapters. Jack’s least favorite chapter, but the one he thought encapsulated what it was most like to slog through the meandering opus: the chapter read at a pub, as the readers passed the book around, getting drunker the further into the chapter they got.

I made a crack about Cather in the Rye. Jack responded to the group:

Hah!  That Sean, he really cracks me up.  He’s an okay fellow, as guys go.  Of course maybe it’s because he has a hot girlfriend.  Anyone got a cig?

Thanks for the positive reference, Jack: and for the many worlds we explored together.

I’ll miss you at club tonight.

Just my thoughts,







4 responses to “Jack’s Great Books Salon”

  1. DeAnna Parks (Kuhn) says :

    Very touching, Sean. I miss his book club, too! I was so hoping to introduce it to Michael when we move back to LA sometime in the future. What a sad thing to have to see it go. Jack is sorely missed by all of us. What an influence and impact that man made! What an inspiration to live life simply and fully! Jack, you are missed.

  2. suzer says :

    Okay, this made me laugh and immediately cry. I feel gypped.

  3. Sandrah says :

    Reblogged this on A Time-Traveler's Blog and commented:
    This is another wonderful tribute to Jack Gilbert — showing his great sense of humor — written by Sean Gaffney. I’m reblogging it here to have a place I can go back to, to remember … and smile… : ) Thanks, Jack… (And thank you, Sean…) Long live Jack’s book club!

  4. Sandrah says :

    I had to come back and reread this, Sean… It’s wonderful. Thank you for sharing this — and long live Jack’s book club! We’ll all keep it going… (I’ve reblogged it on my blog to always have a place to go back to and remember his great sense of humor…)

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