South Park SD: The Weight of a Catapult

Last night I joined 2 dozen other avid readers at The Book Catapult, in South Park SD, to discuss The Weight of a Piano by Chris Cander. Catapult co-owner Seth Marko was the group’s therapist.

It began innocently as a few of us, mostly familiar to one another, took our usual places at ten minutes to 7.

“Isn’t it funny how we all go to the same seats?” From a smiling regular gliding towards her spot.

Familiarity, identity, memory, place, and community. All tickled in a rhetorical question.

What a cool start…

A few of us responded loosely and amiably until a newby moved from the edges to the heart of the group. “I felt like I’d put myself in a corner.”

Readers over 40 years old, what is the FIRST thing you think when you hear of anyone being put “… in a corner”?

Thank you! So I resisted the urge to say this… because the larger point was important.

It says something about an environment when people are drawn towards its center rather than staying at the periphery. It says Seth didn’t sweep carefully enough along the walls and the rookie member of our group was too polite to mention it…


General consensus, The Weight…’s first chapter was a winner. As was the piano’s point of view.

In fact, the committee gave an unambiguous thumbs-up to that Blüthner as it “moved through these people’s lives.” “It carried so much of the weight… of their stories.”

A different digit was used towards the book’s other characters.


Have you ever been chatting with someone, having an earnestly good time, and, out of nowhere, found yourself in a conversational lull?

We did. A few times.

What struck me was the collective response to those pregnant pauses.

It was the most content, unified silence I’ve experienced around a bunch of semi-strangers. The vibe in the room was, “Okay, bit of a wait for the next subject, but we’re in this together. Something interesting is about to happen. We just know it…”

And that strategy worked!

Until it finally didn’t. After forty minutes, our therapist asked, a little incredulously, “So, is that it? Are we done talking about this book?”

The group’s nonverbal response was, “Yes. However we aren’t even close to done enjoying each other’s company.”

Translation: everyone immediately hunkered deeper into their chairs and renewed eye contact with one another. The conversation turned to questions about and recommendations from past book clubs.

We all swam deeper into the literary pool, intellectually speaking.

Since the group therapy session was sort of over, I asked to take a couple pictures for this post and everyone obliged me.


You’ll notice a general awareness of the camera.

And my inability to take a clear snap under pressure…

I desperately wanted a blurry pic of owner Seth Marko blinking. SCORE!

Now watch what happens when the group thinks the pics are done…

These people couldn’t wait to re-engage once the camera and I were out of the way. This gathering of readers had morphed into the party you don’t want to leave.

One woman offered, with a laugh, “I’m in other book clubs, but not with younger people. And none with men. This is way more fun.”

A great way to end …


Cander’s piano was, for our group, an inanimate object that absorbed the stories of the people around it. Makes sense a piano that felt Piano Concerto No. 2 in G-sharp major played every day for years might hold Alexander Scriabin‘s melody in its woodgrain.

And the consider other inert members of Cander’s world. The Blüthner piano’s bench? Sheet music? What stories did they “know”?

  • I’m a musician myself and can guess what my double bass would say if given the chance. “Please give me to someone who knows how to play at least 3 notes consecutively in tune. And your bowing is dreadful, by the way.” For more, click here.

And what about all the quiescent witnesses to the readers’ get together in South Park? Chairs. Books.

What about The Book Catapult itself?

If the store had a chapter in a larger, community story, what would it say? What energy, care, memories, concerns, affections, and voices have been absorbed into the wall, tables, and shelves?

The Catapult’s survival is a testament to the importance of heartfelt connections.

So maybe the book club was really just a subtle strengthening of bonds.

And those are exactly the moments that make it so easy to looove South Park SD.

So thank you Seth, Jennifer Powell, and everyone at The Book Catapult, for creating a context where we can meet and share. Just be sure to sweep in the corners… you’ve got an open house this Sunday, for goodness’ sake!


Thanks for reading and stay tuned!!

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