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Thursday, 9 April 2009

Book Club

I always wanted to join a book club. There are so many scenes in movies with men and women sitting in cozy rooms huddled over a book. The conversation is smart, funny and yet it is a conversation between friends. The book at hand is a very good pick. It might be an old classic or a more recent cult sensation; in any case the book has been picked after much consideration.

More recently there have been entire movies about book clubs - the Jane Austen Book Club for one. And I am impressionable :). Who says that TV is bad for our imagination? So I joined a book club that met 3 miles from here, had great ratings with lots of members leaving behind posts about how varied the opinions were, how lively the conversation was and so on. What could possible go wrong? We would pick a good book, gather in some cozy restaurant and chat away.

As always when you build things up they are bound to let you down. So when the book that was chosen did not meet my expectations I blamed my rather steep expectations. We picked Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. I have nothing against David Sedaris and I rather enjoyed the book but it was just not what I expected from a book club.

Things looked up a little after that. The book club seemed quite organized, I got reminder mails, comments and also a list questions that would aid discussion. So though I did not think that the book in itself lent itself to much analysis or discussion I thought with a bunch of irreverent, funny people this would be good. They did pick a very politically incorrect, laugh out loud kind of book and if that says anything about them, I expected a fun bunch of people.

Since it was my first book club meeting ever, it was clearly not enough for me just to read the book. I have spent a large portion of my life taking examinations and now I worked on converting a leisure activity to something that resembled an examination. I made notes about the questions asked, googled other details of interest, jotted down salient points. Three weeks after I had RSVP'd, I turned up at the designated time at a Panera Bread where a table had been booked for our meeting.

When I met the crowd I was not exactly elated. There were 7 women and 2 men all of whom avoided any eye contact or pleasantries. A couple of them seemed to know each other but that was about it. Things went downhill rather quickly... With the exception of two women most of the people there had either not read the book, or read it so long ago that they did not remember the details, or had read so many of Sedaris' books that they had no idea what this particular one said. Great start!!

I tried to cling to my mental picture of lively conversation, cozy rooms but this situation was past help. The questions were read out and everything contributed their half a cent (I give 2 cents to an entire sentence). I tried to contribute however the discussion was not what I had hoped for. One question dealt with coming up with the cast of a movie based on the book. David Sedaris is a self absorbed, funny, intelligent man who was a former drug addict, abused alcohol and spent most of his life without any goals. I had given this much thought and decided that Hugh Grant would play this role well. The group there however had decided because David Sedaris was gay, the person who would do this character most justice was Sean Hayes a very gay character in Will and Grace. That is like casting Kal Penn in every Indian role including Tipu Sultan and Gandhi. All in all we got through the list of questions very quickly. Clearly all my homework was to go to waste.

The conversation then got worse. There were two teachers and they began talking about their job. One was a female teacher who talked a lot about an 11 year old who just had sex on her mind. She of course dropped to a whisper every time she said the S word but the impression I got was that this teacher also clearly had "sex" on her mind. The other teacher also talked about the hell his students were going through. There were stories about overdoses, homelessness, and violence. The two teachers then spent considerable amount of time coming up with the most shocking story of the evening.

There was also a girl who kept talking about how she loved self help books. Having done my research I knew that David Sedaris had kicked his drug/ tobacco/ alcohol habits with the help of self help books. Though this was a commendable feat, if David Sedaris talked about said self books in excruciating detail with every passing acquaintance stuck in an hour long book club meeting, I don't think I will ever read a book authored by him again.

After the first 10 minutes when I was trying to at least trying to answer some of the questions, I gave up and stared at the people with growing amazement. Yet another dream shattered. My mental pictures of hot cocoa, fireplaces, and lovely books replaced with this- what was effectively a retelling of a trashy reality show.

And to add salt to my fresh wounds apart from one English teacher not one of them had heard of Agatha Christie. :(

1 comment:

Anton Terence Dsilva said...

-->not one of them had heard of Agatha Christie. --> Are you sure you went to a book club :) ?