By September 3, 2010 0 Comments Read More →

Book Club Musings

This past summer, the library where my book club regularly meets was undergoing a reorganization, and we were asked to either cancel our meetings for July and August or find another place to meet, outside of the building.  The book group was quite adamant that they wanted to continue meeting, and one member volunteered to check at a local restaurant about the possibility of gathering there, in a small room off to the side of the main dining area.  She spoke to the manager, and everything seemed to be all set, so the other members of the group were notified of the date, time, and new location.  But then, about a week before the meeting was to take place, it was discovered that the restaurant closed at 8:00 p.m.  Since our start time was to be 7:30, this  site clearly wouldn’t work, and so the hunt was on to find another place to meet.

We did locate another restaurant with another side room, and the decision was made to relocate the meeting.  But notifying everyone in the group turned out to be a problem — we had e-mail addresses for some, but not all members, and no phone numbers for those not connected to the Internet.  Whoops!  As a result of this little fiasco, one of the group members volunteered to wait outside the first restaurant on the night of the discussion and direct anyone who came there to the new location.

Then, on the date of the meeting, a participant experienced car trouble and ended up walking to the restaurant — a very long walk on a very hot evening.  Happily, another participant offered to give her a ride home (ironically, she lives only a block from the library, but of course, we weren’t meeting there!).  The moral of this tale is — always get e-mail addresses and phone numbers for all your participants, and get permission to share this information with everyone.  We did this — belatedly — as the first order of business when the meeting was eventually convened.

As a change of pace, I decided to work with a nonfiction title for the August discussion.  The book I chose, Reading Lolita in Tehran, by Azar Nafisi, seemed very appropriate, since it focuses on the formation of a book club and the discussions of great works of English literature that subsequently took place.  It was a moderate success.  Some members of the group liked it, especially Nafisi’s language and style, but others  just didn’t want to read (or talk about) nonfiction — they wanted a plot!  Even though they grudgingly agreed that Nafisi’s book does offer characters (she describes the Iraqi women in her reading circle in considerable depth), they argued somewhat belligerently that they weren’t familiar with the writing of Vladimir Nabokov and Henry James, and they didn’t like the way the author dissected these novels in great detail.  Nafisi was too repetitive, they said; the book could have used a better editor.  And some of them were disturbed by the political content — they’d already heard too much about how Iraqi women have been mistreated in recent times, and they just didn’t want to concentrate on it any more because it was too depressing.

Oh, well, on to fall — and back to the library (where piped-in music doesn’t conflict with the discussion; as we began, one group member hastily shot out of our little meeting room and asked the manager to turn it way down — that, after he advised her that he couldn’t turn it off!)  Our line-up for the next three months includes The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (which I wrote about in this blog earlier in the summer), The Help, and The Glass Castle  (yes, I know it’s another nonfiction title — wish me luck!).

The response for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has been phenomenal — the group filled up on the second day of registration (24 sign-ups), and so the library started a waiting list and now has decided to hold another discussion of the same book on the same night with another leader.  Wow!  Guess that says something positive about this particular title.    People obviously aren’t put off by all the sex and violence it contains — they want to talk about it!

So — I promise to let you know how that discussion goes.  I’m now actually looking forward to it.  And I think we’re going to have a lot of interest in The Help, too, since it’s another high-profile title, and participants will have the opportunity to sign up for that discussion and pick up their books immediately following the conclusion of our little chat about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Full speed ahead!

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About the Author:

Ted Balcom lives in Arlington Heights, IL and conducts workshops on leading book discussions, about which he has also published a book: Book Discussions for Adults: A Leader’s Guide (American Library Association, 1992).

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