Friday, October 12, 2012

I went to a book group last month. It's a new one, formed by some women from my church group and I went because, in theory, I'm pro book group.

Turns out, in practice, I can't handle them very well!!

I've been trying to analyze what my problem is, and I think it's many-fold. First, I think I constitutionally can't do book groups when they're reading fiction. Admittedly, the fiction choice for this particular session wasn't stellar (Gone With the Wind--really--did you know it is almost 1000 pages!), but I think that was only part of the problem. I'm too much the literature teacher. I keep wanting to contextualize for everyone, to guide people away from dualistic thinking, to discuss artistic choices the author is making. These are great instincts if you're a teacher, not so much if you're part of a reading for pleasure book group. I'm pretty sure I ruffled a few feathers even though I only spoke a little.

I think what I need to do is take a graduate lit course. Actually, what I need to do is teach another class, but that's not going to happen for a while still. In the meantime, book groups reading fiction aren't really for me.

However, this particular group voted on eight books to read together and six of them, including the next pick, are non-fiction and I'm not really sure how a non-fiction discussion would even go, so I'm going to give the group one more shot. [Actually, two more shots: I got guilted into hosting (by myself--I have a huge sense of guilt!) in January when the group is reading--get this--Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera (not my suggestion, by the way, though all my offerings were fiction, natch). I know, I know--we're not going to read a lot of novels, but one we are going to read is deceptively simple and yet very complex...what now?]

Anywho, I'm hoping non-fiction in a book group will go better for me. I can completely understand the urge to read non-fiction for information or research purposes, whereas the idea of reading fiction that way just makes me crazy. But then I wonder how a book group discussion would then go: "I learned this...Oh, so did you, because we read the same book! How interesting!" I'm guessing a discussion of the non-fiction author's rhetorical choices won't come up, which is one of the things I'd like to discuss. Because of course it is! Darn that literary training! However, that being said, I still think non-fiction might be my only way to handle book groups. We shall see.

In the meantime, I suppose I should be overjoyed to be involved in anything at all that encourages me to read, since lately I seem to have picked up the distressing habit of reading the first few chapters of a lot of books but then never finishing (Cloud Atlas, The Historian, Kavalier and Clay, I'm looking at you!).


Martha Beeton said...

I feel your pain... I joined a bookclub when I got to D.C., and I've remained faithful. Sometimes, though, it's hard. Hope you and the family are enjoying Cleveland! There's a chance we might be out that way this summer. I will keep you posted!

Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

I think you'll like non-fiction better. And there is plenty to discuss! You discuss events and people and history instead of literary technique. I talked with anyone who would listen about John Adam's biography (McCullough) after I read it -- amazing! Also love Undaunted Courage and many others. Love in the Time of Cholera -- GOOOOOOD luck with that one. Esp. with the LDS set.