Retrospect

This week my book group discussed Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road.  I was really looking forward to the discussion as it is one of my favorite books. 

As I mentioned in my last post, one of my group members found an excellent interview with Yates that was very informative to the group.  I found a lengthy article by Stewart O’Nan about Yates’ work that also helped me prepare for discussion.

I did not, however, get a chance to comb over the book a second time to prepare notes, examine the full arc of the story chapter by chapter, as I often do.  For one, I have just returned to my work as a Readers’ Advisory Librarian after 6 months as an interim Branch Manager for two library branches.  So while I know I have been distracted, I thought I had prepared enough.  But I left feeling like I had left the group down a bit.

The discussion went really well.  My book group is a funny, smart bunch, and they all brought different insights and questions to our discussion.  But I left somehow feeling disappointed–in myself

Usually, I am good at steering the conversation gently, tabling issues and scenes that occur towards the end, guiding us to relive the book through its story arc and themes.  I don’t necessarily go in with a map in mind of how I think a discussion should go.  I believe that book discussion should flow organically, that one comment or question should lead to another.  But I know, and I think the group can feel, when we have gotten off track, or are backtracking or not transitioning smoothly from point to point.  As a book group facilitator, I feel it is my job to help smooth transitions.  It is my job to make the group feel that we have discussed a book fully in our hour allotment. 

We definitely covered a lot of territory in Revolutionary Road in our discussion.  But we ended by talking about the violent tragedy that ends the book in our final minutes without really tying it all together.  And somehow I walked away feeling I had failed.

Maybe I am just being hard on myself here, but I am wondering how other book group facilitators deal with this.  How do you examine your own performance at the end of each discussion?  Does anyone else feel the way I felt this week, and how do you move on?  Is this kind of assessment even constructive?  Maybe I just need some “book group therapy” of a different kind…

Thanks for listening.

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About the Author:

Misha Stone is a readers' advisory librarian with The Seattle Public Library. Follow her on Twitter at @ahsimlibrarian.

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