Thursday, March 31, 2022

That which doesn't kill you makes you giggle, by Catriona

Business: Book club members are usually free to say anything about the book they just read. People attending author events usually say nice things or nothing. But what about when authors visit bookclubs? Do rules exist? Should we invent them?

UK - April, US - June

I've never been a member of a bookclub. So my only experiences are as an author attending. And I'm kind of disappointed that there's never been a  . . . What would we even call it? . . . my favourite expression for the thing I'm talking about is "a crap on the coffee-table". It would go something like this:

Book Club Member 1: Book Club Member 2, we haven't heard from you yet?
BCM3 (sotto voce): BCM1! What are you doing?
BCM2: I thought we agreed I was going to button it.
Catriona: What's this? This sounds interesting.
BCM2: Okay, since you ask. I thought this book was pedestrian tripe. Hackneyed, worthless foolishness. A waste of trees. I tried to veto it but I've already used this year's veto to block another one.
Catriona: Oh? what book did you block? Who am I in this club with?
BCM2: That was your last effort. Also garbage.

This has never happened, except in my head. Whenever a BCM is silent, though, I assume this is what she's not saying. But then I over-react for a living. Maybe that silent BCM is hiding the fact that she hasn't read the book. (I wouldn't be offended). Or the fact that she doesn't read much crime fiction and I haven't changed her mind any. (I wouldn't be offended.) And even if this was what she was holding in, and she decided to let it out, and I was offended, it would be a great story. I'd be telling it here. (Without having to make it up.)

Yeah, if I had the power to set ground rules for the bookclubs I go to, I'd love to tell everyone to let rip. We've all read horrible reviews of our books anyway - cynical reviews, mean reviews, confident but error-riddled reviews - and we've all been at that signing where people say things so rude they're funny or so wrong they're a kind of genius:

"I don't read much. Maybe I'll start when I'm old."
"I only read good books."
"I didnt know this was set overseas.There should have been a warning."

In those settings, the hardest thing is to not respond. Not to say:

"Maybe you'll die young."
"Tchah! I almost wrote a good one. If only, eh?"
"The first word of the jacket copy is 'Edinburgh'."

So, getting rinsed at a gathering where a response is the way to go would be a treat!

But there I go again, assuming that the quiet BCM is seething with unexpressed emotion about my work. The truth is probably that she's knackered and the last thing she needs at her bookclub is to have to talk about a damn book.

Except for this one bookclub I once went to in Berkeley where the BCMs had index cards of character arcs and plot threads. They were absolutely fascinating. And they gave me a cutting of this - currently blooming - succulent too.



Ann Mason said...

I've never belonged to a book club. I can't bear the idea of someone else picking out a book I had to read. At my advanced age, I have only so many shots left to shoot, and I won't waste a single one.

And if I were a BCM, I'd be the silent one, either because I hated the book and didn't want to ruin someone's evening or because I didn't even read the Cliff Notes.

Unless it was one of your books. Then I'd be working the room, touting your writing excellence.

Grace Koshida said...

I'm the same as Ann. Never been a member of a book club, and have no interest in being in one for similar reasons. The last time I was forced to read a book was in English (or French) class in high school. Blech.

Catriona McPherson said...

I can't believe I missed this out of the blog, Ann and Grace. But one time I went to a bookclub who always read two books. So I read the other one. It was literally Mitch Albom's The Five for real People You actually Meet in I kid you not Heaven.

Ann said...

And this is why we love you.

Vinnie Hansen said...

I became a member of a book club for many years. They invited me as a guest author and I just never left.

Susan C Shea said...

This 5-person group is an experiment. We all live within walking distance of each other and a couple of us were already friends and lamented we didn't know people in our 'hood. So what better than to read together? The first book was a winner: Bewilderment. I successfully argued for Deacon King Kong as our second and we'll see how it goes. A couple of us have similar tastes and desires about what we will read, and a couple others seems to have pretty different tastes and equally firm preferences.