Thursday, May 20, 2010

Book Clubs are not about Books, are they?

I’ve promised myself never to join a book club. Never again, that is. Now this may seem odd coming from a person with an obsession for reading. Thing is though, I’ve discovered that book clubs are not about reading books.
My first book club was following a college course.  Someone suggested keeping in touch by starting up a book club. Great idea! Problem was that the members of this book club were all female and feminist with a slight penchant for reading books about the plight of women, especially women in Muslim countries. After a couple of sessions discussing novels based on true stories about women having their clitoris (clitorises, clitori?) Well you know what I mean, books about girls having their clits cut off, becoming slaves, being raped, etc… after a few of those books I feigned a bad period and didn’t turn up. Instead, I bought a Cecilia Ahern novel, took it to bed with wine and chocolate and that was the end of book club number one.
But let’s be fair here, not all book clubs are run by the clitorati. So I joined another one. It was very progressive; a book club frequented by both sexes where members took turns to choose the book. Some of the choices were not bad, but once a book went from being a bright cover in a book shop to a ‘proscribed’ read with a deadline, it became daunting. It was too much like school. And then there was the dilemma of what book to suggest when it was my turn. I wanted to seem like a highbrow intellectual, but I also didn’t want to snooker myself with a book I wouldn’t understand. So I suggested ‘Pride & Prejudice’ by Jane Austin. I was cheating of course, because I probably know the text off by heart.  
After a while I couldn’t take the clever and insightful comments on whatever book we were being forced to read. I realised that despite being a book addict, I don’t retain information for long, nor do I analyse any deeper meanings or allegories into books. I just read them, so my comments never amounted to anything more than ‘yeah, good book.’
I’d forgotten about this misery when some neighbours suggested a book club. I already felt guilty about bringing down the tone of the neighbourhood after I’d let some friends camp in the front garden, so I felt this may be a shot at redemption. But no: it was a non-fiction book club, covering themes such as gardening and DIY. Worse, we didn’t meet in the local hotel, it moved from house to house. That meant that whenever it was my turn to host the bloody thing, I’d have to take a few days off work to clean the house. The hostess (and no, I’m not being sexist, it was always the ‘wife’ who hosted it) presented a marvellous spread of homemade cakes and pastries, and as a rule, I was the only person who ate anything, as the rest of my neighbours seem to be on a permanent diet. I have never understood this, as they look slightly underweight from my rubenesque perspective of the world. The problem with this book club was that they actually did know what they were talking about: raised beds, how to clean gutters or the pros and cons of halogen lighting. I was lost. As a seasoned book club girl I wanted to do what book clubbers are good at doing: drinking too much of other peoples wine and gossiping.
So I’ve decided to set up an ‘Anti Book Club.’ You pick out a book that nobody wants to read. You spend a month making sure not to read it. Then you meet up, get slightly pissed, say things you shouldn’t say, eat the food that the other women won’t touch and go home feeling totally justified on foot of your obnoxious behaviour, because after all, it’s the book club.

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