Join a local book club? A book club?
I don’t even know what that is.
Is it like studying literature, only more informal? If so, count me out. I had enough deconstruction and psychoanalysis and post-structuralism for a life-time as a literature student. I had enough meanings masquerading as facts and opinions pretending to be truths long before I finished my master’s degree. (My supervisor would agree — my master’s thesis started out OK but ended up a complete mess. It’s a wonder I made it through my studies at all.)
Is it like meeting an author? Like treating a book and all its content as superior to anything someone else might say? If so, count me out. I’ve listened to many authors in my time, and I usually walk away feeling disappointed: they’re not more interesting than other people, they have opinions and anecdotes which are more or less identical to other people’s opinions and stories, and because of the reverence they’re being treated with, they’re often even more narcissistic and vain than others. (Except, of course, when they talk about their own books. But that won’t help you much if you don’t like the book in the first place.)
Is it like reading literature at school, where most of the time is being spent trying to understand the basic storyline and every other word of more than three syllables? If so, count… Wait, that’s what you have to do with Finnegans Wake. OK, count me in if it’s Finnegans Wake, then.
But it won’t be. This book club will be just one of those things I do just because of this blog, once, just to have done it. Oh well. It’ll be an experience.
We were six: one Chilean, one German, one Iranian, one Italian, one French-Danish and one Norwegian. Two men, four women. The book we should have read: Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro.
The Italian guy hadn’t read the book, so he didn’t have anything to add to the discussion. The Iranian hadn’t read it either, but she did try. I hadn’t read anything but a few pages. The other three women had read it, though. The Chilean said that men in Munro’s stories are quite simple. The French-Canadian talked about how her husband brings back mammoths from his hunts and expects a pat on the shoulder. The Chilean looked at her son, who sat next to her with an iPad, and mentioned that the women in Munro’s stories are simple as well. The German mentioned how she loved the story with the male killer who gets killed in a car crash. The French-Danish laughed and said that it still wasn’t a climax, he just died and life went on without too much fuss. The Chilean said something about her clients and cases (she was a shrink of some sort), and they all laughed, even the Iranian.
The Italian guy had to go.
I said something about story lines and sexuality, that the common way of thinking about plots is that they lead up to one big climax and then end, but that this is the equivalent of the male sexuality, the male way of thinking about sex and literature; a female way is having many small climaxes, or at least sustaining the climax for a longer period, and that it seemed to be this way Munro wrote, with no Hollywoodian ending and no major climaxes.
I seemed to remember something along these lines from my studies. I remembered it because I found it amusingly far-fetched at the time, and here I was ten years later and gave a mangled presentation of those very thoughts. Masquerading half-remembered outlandish opinions as deep truths.
In the end, we all had to go. The Chilean’s son had played his eyes square, the German had a long way home, the French-Danish had to get back before her husband got back home with the mammoth flung carelessly over his shoulders.
I walked back home in the light rain, trying to figure out what on earth male sexuality has got to do with the climax of a short story. And I thought to myself: this was neither Litteraturwissenchaft light, nor like meeting an author, nor like being at school. This was like having a beer and talking about whatever you wanted to talk about — with the added help of a book you could find themes in.
Except that none of us had a beer. But that’s a small price for a good conversation.
I think I have just convinced myself to join the local book club on a permanent basis. It seems like you never know how thing will turn out these days.