Confession: Until last Tuesday, I had never attended a book club as an adult.
Maybe that doesn’t sound as bad when you read it as it sounds in my head when I write it, but somehow I am embarrassed about that fact, given that I love to read and write and talk about those things with others. I’ve actually had a desire to join a book club for some time now, but in my previous city it was difficult finding one that met my schedule and my tastes. I moved to my current city nearly a year ago, and although I found a monthly geek book club in my current city (that I’m soon leaving), it originally didn’t work out with my schedule.
This month, however, it did! If you checked out last week’s Fangirl Friday post, you’ll know we read Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.
Overall, the book club was a good experience, but it was quite different than I expected. I’m not sure exactly why, but I expected it to be a round table of what we felt worked and didn’t work in the book. Part literary criticism, part personal opinion. Essentially, a real time dialogue among book reviews.
I was surprised, therefore, when it turned out to feel more like questions from a school book report. What also really surprised me was that the leader and everyone in the group seemed to just take for granted that we all adored the book.
“Who was the protagonist? Who was the antagonist? What made the author’s use of color schemes so successful?”
If I could have redirected even just those first few questions, they would have been “What role does characterization play in this book? Was the author’s heavy use of color schemes successful in developing the book, and if so, how?”
Having the guided questions themselves make so many implicit assumptions seemed unwise to me. Are you so sure there even was a protagonist and an antagonist? I wanted to ask. Why ask questions framed in such a way that the author’s success at something is taken as a given? Why are we raving about how we can’t believe this was her first book (I can — no offense)? Why aren’t we talking about plot arcs and character development and point of view and tense and sentence structure and vocabulary? Since this is for pleasure and not school, why aren’t we also asking the most basic question: did you enjoy reading it?
Of course, given that this was my one and so far only experience at a book club as an adult, I have no clue if the way it was moderated is typical either for this particular group, or for book clubs in general. Listening to virtually everyone else in the circle (a good 25 people) say nothing but factual or laudatory things about the book also made me wonder, where are the differing opinions? Surely I am not the only one here who did not think it perfect.
Tell me, for those of you who participate in book clubs, what is your typical experience like as far as how it is moderated and the sorts of topics discussed? Does the experience I described here surprise you as much as it did me?