Friday, June 01, 2012

Who needs a Book Club anyway?

Once upon a time, many years ago, I was invited to join a book club. I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to eat good food and chat about literature. I laboured under this delusion for two months until it all came crashing down around my ears rather abruptly. From then until now, I’ve labeled my experience, ‘The Bad News Book Club’ and this is the story of what happened.

I’m always up for chatting about books with anyone who will listen. Obviously it’s more interesting to chat to someone who has an interest in books or who has read the same book you have and then you can compare notes. This is why book clubs have always appealed to me. It’s been something of a secret obsession but I’ve never found anything that fits me. Our library has a book club every summer but it’s for teens and there’s very little chance I’d be able to sneak in there and pretend to be one. And as much as I’m fascinated by YA fiction, I don’t want to be stuck reading it all summer.

So imagine my joy and surprise when I’m asked to join a book club. It’s small and I don’t know anyone very well but at least it’s a book club. The first two months were glorious as each person chose a book and then hosted a meeting with food and drink. Not everyone was as interested in discussing plot and characters as I was but it didn’t matter. We were talking about books!

Finally it was my turn. I picked a book I’d previously read but one that I enjoyed and would lend itself to conversation. I cleaned the house and spent a lunch break at work shopping for a variety of goodies. I’d posted the book title and the time for our meeting. Satisfied that I’d done my due diligence, I got my tray of goodies ready and waited. And waited and waited. 7:30 came and went. I told myself everyone’s always late to these things, busy with their own lives, that sort of thing. Then it was 8:00pm and I was getting antsy. By 8:15pm I’d lost all sense of composure and called the one number I had for one of the members. They picked up, didn’t seem to know who I was and then said they were out with friends. I was sorely tempted to lose it over the phone but resisted. In the end I politely acknowledged their inability to attend.

No one else showed up.

I choked down the anger that had been slowly growing all night by eating the tasty snacks I’d purchased (read: time I’d wasted) on my lunch break at work. Feeling rather satisfied with myself and full, I settled down with the book no one else had obviously bother to read. In the end I had a really good night enjoying a book I loved even more the second time around.

I never did find out what happened that night, why no one showed up. In fact, I never heard from anyone else in the group again. No one phoned to explain or assign another book. It was all rather strange and I have a feeling that they never met again.

It took a long time to work out my feelings over the whole night and the club in general. I think what I wanted out of the club was different from what everyone else wanted. The problem was, I imagined that we all were on the same page. I wanted to discuss the deeper aspects of books while I think they were more interested in getting together and talking about books as well as other aspects of their lives. To take a page from author John Green, I wasn’t imagining other people complexly. No is ever entirely as you imagine them to be. Instead, most likely it's an idealized version of who they are that you imagine.

I never did join another book club. I had a sour taste left in my mouth from last time. That's why I like blogging so much. I can post my thoughts about books and there's a whole community out there, doing the same thing. We might disagree about a story but still, we converse and there's no need to arrange meetings or buy tasty snacks. In the end it's all been for the good because I couldn't be happier with the book bloggers. :)

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