You don’t want me in your book club.
For someone who loves books, I have a funny way of showing it. I consume books like a dieter goes after a chocolate cake, and I don’t stop until there’s nothing but crumbs on the plate. I get in there and dissect them. It’s gruesome. Like a dieter who doesn’t keep sweets in the house, since I don’t get enough opportunities these days to discuss books, when I do get to book club, I can’t help myself. I’m annoying.
There are at least five distinct reasons you don’t want me in your book club.
- I read the book. I mean, really read the book. I don’t generally skim (although there are some good arguments for skimming, it’s never been my thing.) I go to book club to read books I might not have chosen myself, so I don’t skimp on the reading time. I am not one to speed read. I have been introduced as, “the one who remembers everything in the book.” I don’t have a photographic memory or anything, but I’ll remember most details, even from books I read as a child, so you can imagine that I have files at the ready: plenty of events and sensory details to refer to in any discussion.
- I have read a lot. I come to the table with context. If it’s a famous book, I have probably read a review or heard an interview with the author. I have two (otherwise useless) degrees that required reading heavy quantities of fiction, drama, and poetry, as well as reading and writing literary criticism. In a recent book club, we read an adaptation of a famous work that I’d read a few times, at least twice for literature courses. I have read a wide variety of canon classics as well as popular literature; I’m not an amateur when it comes to reading.
- It is often stated that there are only seven or so plots in literature. I love a good adaptation and appreciate when writers use allusion to honor authors who have gone before us. On the other hand, I am easily annoyed by writing that is too derivative, or becomes too clichéd. I have read too many books, so I won’t be all that thrilled with a plot that reminds me of that other book, especially when that other book was so much better. I can also predict a plotline rapidly, so often the element of surprise is lost on me. I cut my baby teeth on mysteries, making me one of those people who can predict the ending of most movies or books.
- I am also a writer, something I’m working on as a (so far unpaid) profession. I have been studying and practicing writing as a craft. All those writing pitfalls readers notice but can’t put their finger on? I have been training for years to identify them to avoid them in my own writing. No writing is perfect (which is why it’s so difficult to do, to finish, to let it go.) Let’s face it, there’s always something to question when it comes to writing decisions. Whether an unknown and known author is guilty of infodumps, clichés, or forgetting the cardinal rule of show don’t tell, I may be a little too quick to point out those sins and even name them.
- I have lots of opinions stemming from experience with people I’ve known, jobs I’ve done, places I’ve lived. And my crazy memory doesn’t just apply to things I’ve read. I’ve met a variety of people from different states, countries, of various ages and demographics. I’ve sold shoes, liquor, coffee, groceries. I’ve taught kindergarteners, elementary students, middle schoolers, high schoolers, college freshmen. I’ve held leadership positions and worked menial jobs. I’ve been through a lot, but, perhaps more importantly, I’ve seen much more. For every stereotype card someone pulls out, I’m prepared with real world information to refute it. And I’m not too shy to bring it up.
Sometimes during book club I hold my hand over my mouth, trying hard not to talk too much. I love to hear what my fellow book clubbers have to say, and I learn so much from how others in the group are affected by the book or how they see the relevant real world issues involved. But my enthusiasm for books runs deep, so, despite my best efforts, I may continue to talk too much. Maybe we should work out a signal? You can gently kick my foot under the table or something.
See you at book club!