Why, you ask? Well, because I like to read and I like to talk and I thought a book group would be a great way to do both those things with other people so I didn’t always have to do them on my own and appear to be totally nuts.
Of course there are sometimes when I am convinced that I actually am in a book group because deep down I am a total masochist.
The book for our last meeting was The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. It was my selection, and I really liked the book. And there was the added bonus that the cutest guy in my village (did I just say cutest guy in my village?) had just taught the book in one of his Lit classes at a university in Hong Kong so I had a nearly 100% legitimate reason for asking him to join us. Which he did and we got to talk about the book like… well, literati snobs, I guess. I thought it was great. Not everyone was as thrilled, however.
A little background on out group:
We started the book group in July of 2007. I basically extended an open invitation to whoever and decided to see what would happen. An interesting strategy to say the least.
The initial response was very positive… very female… and seemed workable. In hindsight, I think that “very positive,” “very female” and “very workable” may have been overstating it a bit, if not mutually exclusive. I invited people I knew and they invited some they knew and so on. We ended up with about 15 people. Then one person said: “Men should not come, women won’t feel free to express themselves if men come.” Hmm. Then one person said: “I hope we are going to read real books.” Huh? Then there was much discussion about logistics. How to read books, how to choose books, where to meet, how to discuss books. I was ready to start drinking before we had even made a selection about anything.
We ended up meeting at my place to discuss a book that met most people’s criteria as it was well known, easy to find in paperback (crucial for the member of our group who will never buy books on the premise of their expense… but I believe if she spent less money on plastic surgery she could probably afford first run books.) We read 1000 Splendid Suns and had a fairly interesting conversation followed by a good amount of eating and drinking. We did allow two men to join, and the anti-man person didn’t even show up. (Of course she rarely does show up and she has never read a book, so why she bothers is a mystery… ) We are a multi-cultural group, Frenchie, English, Aussie, ‘Merican, Chinese… and everyone brings their own idea of what is good about a book. This is a good thing. Mostly.
Since that first meeting we have read:
- 1000 Splendid Suns
- The Time Traveler’s Wife
- 19 Minutes
- The Perfect Hostage
- Animals in Translation
- Enduring Love
- Eat Pray Love
- Never Let Me Go
- The Reader
- Into the Wild
- Three Cups of Tea
- The Seville Communion
- The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
And now we are reading Q & A (the book on which the film Slumdog Millionaire is based…) So, some stellar choices and some absolute rubbish. Through it all there have been many episodes I thought of documenting. Some because they were awesome and memorable. Others for the sheer pain that could only be assuaged through therapeutic rambling.
Because four of my closest women friends in Hong Kong are in this group all the ridiculousness is generally tolerable and it is a fun reason to get together and share food drink and conversation. At our last meeting all the love couldn’t temper the absolutely insane behavior of some of the members. Perhaps the insanity was due to the impending holiday season, or perhaps because there were to other guys there (cute villager and my cousin) throwing things into disarray. All I know is that I was left without words save for “WTF?!?!”
All manner of commentary ensued surrounding the situation, emails were sent and apologies rendered. And it got me really thinking about why I am in a book group in the first place.
Here are some choice samplings from a year in the life of our book group:
- I am not reading this book. No way. [Riiiigghhht…. why are you here again?]
- If you don’t have the spoon you can’t talk. [Yes, we are adults. Spoon throwing followed and I left]
- Someone needs to help me get into my flat right this second because I have locked my keys in. [Already been blogged]
- Hm. Well, I guess there is nothing for me to eat here since I don’t eat gluten. [Hm. Well, that is your problem.]
- I am not reading that book. No way. [Because, why stretch yourself?]
- Oh my god, do you not read the New York Times? [In other words, “I am so much better than you.”]
- Well, I didn’t read it, but… [But I am going to take a lot of time to give my opinion anyhow.]
- No thanks, I have good wine at home. [I waited to hear her say, “Kidding!” after this. She did not.]
- I knew you guys woldn’t like it, but I loved this book. [Three cheers for this one, because integrity is where it is at.]
- Does it make you want to be a vegetarian? [Hmmm….]
- There was just too much information in that book. [Oh no! Information.]
- I’m not going to read that book. [Errmm…?]
- I couldn’t keep the names straight. [Fair enough.]
- Did you know they were clones? [I didn’t.]
- Can I get another drink? [Pass the bottle, please.]
So, why am I in a book group? My best guess is that in spite of the oddities and affronts that exist and occur, I like it. I still like to read and I still like to talk. And in the final analysis, there will always be someone who wants to talk book somewhere…so it is good to be prepared.
…and it might just be the best way to get to know that really cute guy in my village…