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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: December 8, 2008 @ 3:34 pm

    Book off

    Fiona McCann

    Medbh of Dante and the Lobster has brought this New York Times article to my attention just days after my boyfriend joined his first book club. I’ve never joined a book club myself, though I’ve always intended to, my reticence partly due to my fear that I’m likely to turn into the ayatollah of which they speak, and partly because of fear of (time) commitments. Yet several people I know and of whom I think very highly are involved in book clubs, and plenty of good things seem to come out of them (including one particularly delightful marriage). So are Joanne Kaufman and her New York Times interviewees being a little too snotty about the book club format (and about chardonnay, I might add, a fine beverage in my own estimation), or are they in fact to be avoided at all costs, much as the poopy Pamper conversations which they allegedly engender?

    • Medbh says:

      It was such an incredibly unbalanced article slinging nothing but insults at women.

    • Sinéad says:

      I’ve been in two different book clubs and left both for time constraint reasons. Otherwise, I found them really rewarding for lots of reasons. From a book point of view, it was always enlightening to get six or seven other views on a book – it always expanded my experience of the novel we were reading and we all brought a different take on it to the club.

      I hate that assumption that all-female spaces are bitchy and that the only topics were of the domestic/relationship/men variety. Grrr.

      They were somewhere to share and gossip, but both were very democratic, unjudgemental spaces that we all really looked forward to.

      Oh and as for chick-lit (as that article says), we were all pretty much allergic to it so it was never chosen. We read Steinbeck, Annie Proulx, Jeanette Winterson, James Elroy, SE Hinton, Flaubert, Don De Lillo, Iris Murdoch, Chinua Achebe, Nancy Mitford, Henry James, Gerard Donovan… among others. I was also exposed to authors that I would never have chosen myself, which is no bad thing.

      The first one was more long running and better organised. The second, become bogged down in date-changing and 15 million emails a month to try and organise it.

      I’d definitely consider joining one again if someone else did all the arranging. :)

    • Bryan says:

      I tried starting an online book club, but that just tanked. What’s a little weird is that from that article, it seems as though book clubs are just for women. Was there an announcement that I missed?

      I’ve never been to a real, in person book club, but I can see myself getting easily frustrated. Maybe I’m just not wired for book clubs. Maybe that’s why the online one was a flop.

    • Fiona says:

      Medbh: Just wrote a big long comment and it got wiped, but suffice to say that what also irked was this ridiculous assumption that book clubs are a women-only thing. It was a lazy, reductive and strangely underhand piece of journalism.

      Sinéad: Let me know if you find someone to do the arranging, and then count me in!

      Bryan: I have similar fears about joining one, but then complain because I don’t get to talk about books as much as I’d like (which is a lot), so am seriously reconsidering.

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