Jake Gyllehaal's Book Club


Jenna Finwall Ryan

    Celebrities and Dickens don't mix. Have you ever seen their randomly inserted bookmarks in their leather bound Classics move? I haven't. Or explain to them on more than one occasion that Anna Karenina isn't an effing Elvis Costello album? I have. Being tapped for a celebrity book club may sound thrilling, but I assure you it will only be a nuisance. And sometimes even a hazard. Don't say I didn't warn you.

    Our first book club meeting was held at a sketchy downtown parking garage. A dozen of us showed up to discuss The Help, but were instead given a slew of psychological tests and confidentiality agreements by a waif named Shoshana. I have no problem with waifs or confidentiality, but said psych evals were against my religion just for fun. Shoshana gave me a blank stare at first, then asked me to help pass out pencils. I'm not allowed to handle sharp objects, so she finally just had me check everyone's coat pockets for change. I found seventy-five cents in total and a coupon for multi-cat kitty litter. Shoshana took the money but let me keep the coupon which was super cool of her. Shoshana has an iguana. And I guess he's toilet trained anyway.

    Shoshana explained that she was starting the book club for her boss, but refused to divulge exactly who that was. She seemed to really enjoy her power, but whatever. The paperwork took up the entire meeting so we didn't even have time to discuss the book or meet the mysterious host. It wasn't a total loss though because Shoshana read a statement our book club leader-to-be had prepared in the unlikely event of a discussion. She said that he thought the book was "really, really good." I totally one hundred percent agreed so I decided to come back.

    Only half of us ended up passing the psych evals for what turned out to be Donnie Darko's book club. We discovered this at our second meeting, but not because we got to meet him. Not in person anyway. He had Shoshana make a hologram of him out of fishing line, rainbow trout, and sequins which she hung above the pretzel logs. I'm not sure if the pretzel log part was his idea or hers, but it was a good one.

    At first I got really excited because I thought it was Tobey Maguire. I'm totally colorblind so it was an easy mistake, okay? Everyone agreed after a vote and tie breaker that it was definitely for sure Jake Gyllenhaal. I was like eff it, I'm still in. Being colorblind has helped me get tons of scholarships, discounts, and an autograph from Connie Chung. Gyllenhaalogram politely contributed to our Pride and Prejudice discussion by nodding after every ninth word someone said which was super fun because I like to count things.

    We finally met Jake in the flesh at our third meeting. He set aside the first half hour for photos and autographs. This turned into twenty-nine and a half minutes of very awkward silence. I felt bad no one wanted his autograph, so I asked him to sign my Middlesex book for my brother, whose name I lied and said was Banana Medicine. Jake dots his i's with hearts, which made the super awesome name Banana Medicine look really effing lame.

    The lobby of Jake's building was pleasant if you like ominous triptych paintings, but then who doesn't? It lacked some fairly essential amenities though. Like whenever Jake had to tinkle, he momentarily retreated to his loft. But when anyone else needed to go, he refused to let us use even one of his five bathrooms. Our prettiest member was forced to pee in a ficus. I was the one who had to cover her, while Jake and the rest of our book club tried to see if she wore bikini or thong underwear. I guess it's just one of those things like when you can't look away from a horrible traffic accident.

    We were finally allowed inside Jake's loft for our In Cold Blood book discussion. We still didn't have bathroom privileges, but were greeted with an impressively large spread of Kansas-themed food, which made the UTI that I got totally forgivable. You might be wondering what Kansas-themed food tastes like and I would tell you, but I honestly didn't have any. I don't eat food from strangers. Duh.

    Shosh and I quickly became BFFs because I was the first to notice Jake's impulse to touch her earlobes every five seconds. When he feigned innocence after her great-great grandmother's blue diamond earring went missing during a book club touch-a-thon, Shosh and I scoured flea markets every weekend until we found another blue diamond she could afford. We know it's real because the vendor gave us his email address.

    One afternoon at the Fairfax Flea market amidst a pile of dirty rich hipsters, Shoshana told me that Jake almost fired her when she couldn't book the entertainment he wanted for our In Cold Blood discussion. Apparently he had his little heart set on a live reading by the author himself and wouldn't take "no" for an answer. When she insisted that the author was dead and it would probably be almost impossible to get him, Jake slapped her but then finally agreed to a séance.

    At eight o'clock sharp, Martina the psychic showed up with her dwarf assistant and crocheted shawl. They immediately got to work and asked us to join hands. I got stuck holding Jake's but I didn't complain because I'm nice. Within seconds, Martina was reciting an excerpt from what she said was page 93 and I was trying to wriggle out of my Maidenform racerback bra just to see if I could. But it wasn't page 93. It wasn't even from the book.

    Her "excerpt" was actually that Friday's unsolved Dateline mystery. A re-run. Everyone seemed to notice except Jake, who kept his eyes squeezed shut while Martina recounted the facts of the Dateline case like an actress reciting a monologue and her assistant stuffed expensive catered appetizers in his pockets. Jake never effing reads the books.

    At our next meeting, I saw two members writing "I heart Jake Gylenhal [sic]" in the margins of The Hunger Games. I made them add the "[sic]" part since they should've known better. That, and there was no way any amount of Wite-Out could correct the misspelling, especially when taking into account the number of times they wrote it and how hard they were pressing. A member in good standing, like me, knows how to spell all book club members' last names, including Jake's. It has three l's and two a's, like "Maggie Gyllenhaal." Speaking of Maggie, boy do I wish she'd come around. She'd probably for sure read the books. Nevermind. I bet she's read like five whole books. Like ever.

    Just when I lost interest in Jake and our book club, he generously split one of his old Oscars swag bags with us. Of course he drew first, then placed the bag on the floor and ran for his life. Total Jake move. And (typical) he took probably the best thing in there. Shoshana's had to fish his Swarovksi-covered spoon out of hundreds of Yogurtland trash cans after Jake "accidentally" throws it away. Don't feel bad for her though. She found a used fro-yo cup with the Yogurtland logo printed upside-down and sold it on eBay for like six bucks. And it wasn't even Hello Kitty week. Or Jake's.

    You would not believe some of the other stuff in that swag bag. Or the ninja-like hair-pulling some people are capable of. I personally like when my hair's pulled, so I made off with an UGGs-of-the-month subscription and an iPod pre-loaded with numerous orchestrations of the theme song from Crash that were nearly indistinguishable.

    Right before our Seabiscuit (the novel) discussion, Shosh asked if I could host our meeting at the last possible minute. She swore me to secrecy, then told me Jake was having IKEA kitchen cabinets installed and unfortunately couldn't host. I didn't think pleb cabinets were anything to be ashamed of, nor had I ever even seen his kitchen, but Shoshana assured me it was there, down the hall, sixth door on the left. "But it's a loft—there's no doors," I almost challenged. Then, as if reading my mind, Shosh said the first five doors were bathrooms and the sixth led to a wing he gutted for the French Bulldog puppy he's thinking about preparing to apply for in an upcoming waiting list which will offer part-time adoption. Shosh always seems to know exactly what I'm thinking, which is usually about peanuts. Or sex. Or peanut sex. Anyway, I thought, "Fair enough, that could happen to anyone," and I agreed to host book club. Big mistake.

    You'd think photographers would respect that celebrities are entitled to participate in clubs. And that my own neighbors would refrain from trampling all over my lawn just to get a lousy Instagram photo. But they're only human. Unlike you, Jake, with your superhuman ability to go from "meh" to hot in the span of just three blockbuster films. So listen up because I'm about to tell you something about landscaping, just-OK-looking End of Watch Jake.

    First, it takes the average person two different buses to get to Home Depot. For me, it takes four. Second, you have to show up at the asscrack of dawn before all the good sod gets picked over. The earliest I could get to Home Depot was eight-thirty. Eight effing thirty. Which left me with the Sophie's choice of either blanketing my front yard with cactii or impatiens. I effing hate impatiens. Do you know how many people will give a hitchhiker with sixteen trays of impatiens a ride home? Three. But that's not the point.

    Third, they sell bouquets of sorry-ass flowers at Home Depot and I have no effing idea why. But I bought some. If you have a problem with it, just close your eyes and think about your happy place: Yogurtland.

    And would you please just sit back and relax against your overstuffed vegan leather sectional while we pick the books? When you say a book isn't "totally" out of print, what the eff does that mean? I searched for weeks for Dark Safari and the activity you had Shosh plan for our discussion was borderline offensive. I enjoy a philanthropic experience as much as the next person, but Puffy Paint does not belong on mosquito nets. Plus, you wrote "Bono" and "Madonna" on yours and bogarted the only two Swahili words I know. Thanks an effing lot.

    And when you can't make it to a meeting, especially when you're hosting, please give us a head's up. We waited in your lobby for two hours when you were a no-show for our Eat Pray Love discussion, even though you were the one who effing picked the book. To tell you there weren't suicide threats and wasted veggie trays would be straight lying. Plus, your doorman had to set up a grief tent in your courtyard and make your neighbor Phoebe put the wraps on her wrap party for her short film that was accepted into the Outerlying Canadian Islands Film Festival: A Pseudo-Festival. When your doorman's triage efforts failed, he gave up and called in the Red Cross. I'm pretty sure those benevolent folks had better things to do, but I guess some people will do anything for mini carrots.

    And would it kill you to be cordial to your neighbors once in awhile? Maybe the next time you bump into Phoebe or step on her you can say "excuse me" or "congratulations on your short, short film." Yeah, she's kind of a handful, but so are you. And I mean she's literally a handful. She's like three or four inches tall.

    Which is exactly how I feel sometimes at book club. But it's okay. I forgive you.