Not everyone goes to the bar to discuss literature, but, for those who do or would like to, the Grey Lodge Pub in Mayfair is launching a book club.
It may seem like a strange location, but Grey Lodge owner Mike “Scoats” Scotese said the bar has been hosting meet-and-greet sessions with local authors for years. Matthew Quick once stopped in to sign copies of “The Silver Linings Playbook”, which was later turned into a blockbuster movie, Scotese said.
“I like reading local books,” he said. “I want to support local authors. We’ve been doing that for years, and it has evolved into a book club.”
The Grey Lodge Book Club’s first meeting will be held Tuesday, Aug. 27, at 7:30 p.m. on the second floor of the bar at 6235 Frankford Ave., and the inaugural selection is “Tracks Through Our Lives: Stories Told on Philly El Trains” by John A. McCabe.
McCabe, a Burholme native who now lives in Feasterville, will be stopping in to discuss the book, which he published with the help of the Bucks County-based Pearl S. Buck Writing Center.
“Tracks Through Our Lives” is a collection of fictional short stories, narrated by a journalist and a history teacher as they ride the Market-Frankford Line, McCabe said. Each chapter is named after a station on the route.
“You can encapsulate an awful lot of living by connecting to a train, an El train with commuters and all that,” McCabe said. “It’s a vibrant existence, and there’s a spectacle around you all the time.”
The book, which was released in April, is available on Amazon, and the Free Library of Philadelphia has several copies.
McCabe said he grew up riding the El with his mother, and he later took the train to see his wife, who grew up in Kensington, and to get to various jobs along the Delaware River.
He remembers Kensington and what he calls the “east side” of the city before the area was damaged by deindustrialization and infiltrated by drugs.
“I have this hope that people will read this book and reconnect with the things that have been lost and connect with the things that could be regained,” McCabe said.
Scotese said he picked the book for the club after McCabe dropped off a copy at the Grey Lodge. Most of the stories are set in Northeast Philly and the surrounding area, he said.
“I thought it was very interesting. He definitely has a poetic way of writing,” he said. “Sometimes, (it) delves into stream of consciousness that’s hard to follow, but, overall, I never wanted to bail on it. I was always interested to see where it was going. Interesting to read the recollections of somebody in their 70s about growing up in the Northeast.”
McCabe said he is looking forward to discussing his book and getting feedback from readers at the bar.
Scotese said he envisions the Grey Lodge Book Club reading six books a year and meeting every other month. He would like to have the authors included as part of the discussion.
Anyone interested in proposing a book, as an author or reader, can contact Scotese at firstname.lastname@example.org. ••
Jack Tomczuk can be reached at email@example.com.