Friday, 9 June 2017

The truth about Book Club

It's time someone told the truth.
And, truly,  it surprises me that it even needs to be said.
But it does. 
Because there is  a big fat myth still floating around in some sick circles.
So here goes. The truth:

Sure, there might be some vague discussion revolving around a book. 
There might be a passage read or, at least, a pair of reading glasses perched upon someone's nose. One likes to look the part. 
There might even be a Dymocks catalogue or a book review, torn from the newspaper, tossed elegantly onto the coffee table.
But the idea that Book Club is a gathering of people for the primary  purpose of discussing and analysing a book, is soooo wrong. 

Let me make it simple. Book Club is about the five c's: 

  • champagne
  • chocolate 
  • cake
  • cuppas
  • chitter-chatter

Of course, there is some disagreement between various book clubs as to what the 5 c's truly represent.
Some claim that the first c is not for champagne, but for chardonnay ... or even cabernet sauvignon. Others substitute  chips for chocolate, cheese for cake, cackling for chitter-chatter. (I heard that one book club tried to substitute carrot sticks for chocolate and coconut water for champagne, but they did not survive beyond their first meeting. No surprises there!)

But no matter how you interpret the five c's, books start with b so, obviously, do not feature in the list of the five most important things about Book Club.

Unfortunately, there are still a deluded few who have missed the point. 
The ones who believe that Book Club is primarily - or even exclusively - about books. 

My local library gathered all its registered book clubs together one year - just for a happy pre-Christmas fling. 
What a delightful idea! 
Significantly, it was held in a conservatory full of flowers and we were served wine, cheese, bickies and summer fruit. There was not a book in sight! 
Never the less, I still met one lost soul who obviously belonged to a dysfunctional book club, i.e. a book club whose members took themselves seriously. This poor man asked me about the roles we had in our book club. He said 'roles',  but I heard 'rolls'. I was just about to explain that we didn't normally eat rolls, but I was quite open to the idea of incorporating sausage rolls, or even spring rolls, into our gatherings, when he started muttering about author biographies, plot summaries, character analyses and a whole heap of other literary and grammatical stuff that I didn't even understand. The members of his club actually had roles to fulfil (not rolls to fill) for each and every gathering. Scary stuff!

And then there's the sad tale of my friend, a supremely talented and charming woman who works in a coveted role in the publishing industry. 
She was expelled from her book club. 
For not reading the books. 
She just wanted to go along and chat and eat cake. 
And they wouldn't let her!!!

Let me tell you about my book club. 
A typical gathering  begins with hugs and kisses and everyone talking over the top of each other as we arrive. 
We drink tea and champagne and we nibble chocolate, liquorice allsorts, bickies, cheese, olives, sun-dried tomatoes ... you get the idea. 
And as  we nibble, we talk about our families, our jobs, our holiday plans and the disturbing trend towards corset-type underwear. 
An hour or so into the gathering, someone might casually suggest that we talk about our book. Typically, ten or fifteen minutes of literary discussion will take place**, then we'll pop the kettle on, bring out a cake and start talking about  how much we like our host's new cushions, our cholesterol levels, our gardens and  which movie we're going to see next time we gather for Book Club. (See how free and easy we are in interpreting the word 'book'?)


It's about books and friends and laughter and cake. 

If you belong to a  book club that is sinking into the Slough of Deep and Serious Literary Discussion Which Goes On and On for Far Too Long, I have created a valuable tool for you to take to your next gathering:

And because I am kind, I offer here my list of short but fabulous books. If you get your book club  reading these and introduce the flow chart , you can have your cake and eat it too.

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly, by Sun-Mi Hwang
Winnie the Pooh, by A. A. Milne
The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett
The Arrival, by Shaun Tan (No words. None at all!)

Happy book clubbing.

* Just as Craft Group is not about craft. 
CLICK HERE to read more.

** We did have a book discussion, recently, that went for almost half an hour. But that was mainly due to the fact that I had failed to grasp something quite significant about the theme and structure of the novel  -  My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, by Fredrik Backman - and my companions were trying to explain it to me between their gasps of laughter and their expressions of wonder at how obtuse I had been!

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