I don't like talking about books.
No, let me rephrase that. I don't like talking about specific books in excruciating detail with a room full of animated coffee-swillers or wine-sippers who have all just read the same thing.
That's right, I don't like book discussion groups.
It's the fault of Miss Clements, a woman who seemed nice, but who came perilously close to turning me into a Stepford Reader when I was a (relatively) defenseless 15-year-old. That year Miss Clements forced me and the rest of her English class to nitpick the very "important" Lord of the Flies line by tedious line, searching for symbolism and making up our own when we didn't find enough to please her.
I hated that book. I hated that class. I hated--
Sorry, Miss Clements. I'm sure you were doing your best.
I'm not judging anyone who participates in book discussion groups. I'm just saying I'd rather have eye surgery (and I've had eye surgery, so I know what I'm saying) than join a book group. Thanks for asking, but I'm busy that night.
This morning I came across this essay by a kindred spirit:
This instinctive aversion to the notion of book clubs
springs from a deep-rooted belief in the essence of the
experience of reading. (Does the phrase “solitary
pleasure” ring any pleasant associative bells?) Reading
is the greatest of great escapes. Reading is permission
to simply be, to exist in another world, the world of the
book. But you can’t maintain that Zen state when
someone is wittering away about plot, tone and setting
as though they are the new holy trinity.
Ab. So. Lutely.
I don't even like to pick apart my own stories to see what makes them work (or not). So when a group of romance writers gets together to talk about Goal, Motivation, and Conflict (talk about your holy trinities!) my eyes glaze over. To me, it's all about instinct and magic. I don't want to see behind the curtain. You go ahead and look if you want, but please don't spoil it for me.
...I read the words of Sue Zimmerman, 50, in an article about book clubs published recently by California’s Ventura County Star.
“Sometimes you need to be in a book club because you’re reading and reading and you just don’t get it,” said Zimmerman. “That’s what clubs do. They help you get it.”
If I met Sue Zimmerman, 50, I’d suggest otherwise. Because maybe if you “just don’t get it,” you’re not necessarily meant to. Or maybe you should just read another book, one that you do “get,” one that you actually want to read.
Amen to that. I don't want to work that hard to understand a book. If I don't know what the author is trying to say, either she has failed to do her job or I'm not just a very smart cookie. It doesn't matter which; I just pick up my coat and move on.