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Book Clubs

June 6, 2012

I recently joined a book club–an all-girl book club, in fact. I wanted to call the club “Chicks Before Dickens” but because a member of the group said the title reminded her too much of chickens (wtf), we went with “Girls Gone Wilde,” which I’m okay with, but still harbor some resentment for my lost cause.

Anyways–right now, I’m excited about this club, though I don’t know why. I’ve always wanted to be in a book club, so much so that I’ve tried in the past to get several book clubs off the ground, but they’ve all burned up on the runway. One would think I’d have learned by now.

I think the problem with creating and maintaining a book club is this: people want to–and think they might be–smarter than they actually are. Too harsh? No. I’ve lived it. Just listen.

Is this concept feasible in today’s society?

An experience I’ve had more than once: I’m at lunch with some friends and we’re talking about The Catcher in the Rye like we’re the first people ever to do so outside of a classroom, and because everyone at the table shares the UNIQUE perspective that The Catcher in the Rye is a “really fascinating book,” we all think (and say out loud), “OMGZ WE SHOULD START A BOOK CLUB,” and then there’s discussion, and some people (me) think we’re serious.

Book clubs are great in theory: you do something smart, meet up with friends to show them how smart you are, and repeat until you die or books become obsolete (I give it 10 years?). It sounds like a fantastic idea, and then a reading list is created and everyone goes, “omg our reading list is soooo cool we’re reading Little Dorrit, have you heard of it? Yeah, it’s one of Dickens’ lesser known books. Yeah, it’s certainly worth a read.” But then people get the book, see that it’s a billion pages long with font the size of our IQs, read the first chapter and go, “Oh look! American Idol’s on!” The book gets set down and a Diet Coke is placed on top of it. Periodically throughout the week, we think, “Hm, I should really read that book–oh but its long and, wait! I need to watch that marathon of Jersey Shore today!” and we hope against hope that everyone has just forgotten about the book club. And no one does. Everyone remembers the club. But they’re also hoping no one will ever bring it up again. And no one does. Because they’re all watching Jersey Shore.

This is obviously a bit exaggerated, but you get the picture. People forget that reading involves using your brain for an extended period of time, and are shocked to realize it only after it’s too late. I was in a book club that decided to read The Omnivore’s Dilemma as the inaugural book on the list, and I was excited (I was naive back then). I read it, though it bored me and was, admittedly tough to get through. I, myself, almost resorted to shitty daytime television–but I didn’t. I maintained my resolve and got all the way through. I sent an e-mail to the others in the club, confirming our first meeting date and got no

Hell, if they can do it…

response for 2 days. I became suspicious and worried. I fretted. I sent another e-mail saying, “Guys?” And they responded like I feared they would: “Can we push it back a week? I’ve been soooo busy” “Yeah! Push it back just oooooone week, definitely”.

But this only prolonged the agony. We were all lying–to ourselves and each other. No one had any intention of reading the book or attending the meeting. And for that next week, I’m sure every member of that club was just waiting it out,hoping no one would say anything, and we’d all just forget about everything that ever happened regarding that club. It was more like Fight Club than a book club–but only in the sense that we never talked about it. It was different in that, with Fight Club, people actually came to the meetings.

But here I am. Months later, I’m a Girl Gone Wilde and I’m hoping that the first book on our list, Catch 22, will be the novel that breaks my losing streak and returns my belief that book clubs aren’t imaginary groups like The Avengers or ping-pong teams (those aren’t real, right?).

The vessel in which all my hopes lie

I’ll believe, once again, that a small contingency of people of differing ages, races and upbringings, can join together, once a month to share their ideas of what George Orwell was really trying to tell us when he made animals speak in Animal Farm, as though they’re uniquely perceptive enough to notice that literary choice. We shall question as though no one has questioned before. We will remark things as though our ideas are groundbreaking. We’ll say things like, “Well, you know, think Death of a Salesman is commenting on the greater idea of the American Dream,” and we shall hear the applause in the back of our own skulls.I’m holding out hope that it will happen. I’m sending the confirmation e-mail now. Maybe this time….maybe this time…

 

 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Victoria Regina permalink
    June 6, 2012 2:26 pm

    Laughed out loud at this one, for sure. I’ve been in the exact predicament : I’m the only one who’s read the book and no one else will admit it. Then, there’s the next chapter. The book club gets together and they accuse you of dominating the conversation because no one has the balls to form an opinion. Or brains. NOTE: pick the members carefully. This may be your first problem. Of course, I’ve never managed to do it right, so I’ll be looking forward to developments. Ah — the idea of the book club, though — a group of like-minded geniuses who celebrate literature… Is it possible?

  2. June 9, 2012 7:25 pm

    Yeah! A new post! Book clubs are a marvelous thing. The only time I ever read much fiction was when I was in a book club. Otherwise, I read nothing but history.

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