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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Book clubs are like museums.

I want to like them. I should like them. My parents paid a lot of money for my education, presumably so I could enjoy book clubs and museums. But I don't. Because they're boring. There, I said it. My mother-in-law was right: I'm simple. She, by the way, is in a book club.

It's not that I don't like to read, because I do. I even enjoy talking about a book I've read, if it comes up in conversation by chance. I can't deal with forced reading and study questions, though. I didn't love school, but I slogged through and finished, dammit. I have some nice pieces of paper to show for it, too. I even have a Masters Degree. Surprised? Don't be. Masters Degrees are the new high school. When you meet a new mom at the park, it only takes about ten minutes for her to mention her Masters. An un-used Ph.D. is wasteful. A Masters? Eh, not so much. I couldn't even cover the cost of all the new clothes I'd need with the salary that my Masters in Social Work would bring. And I'm not making fun of the moms who feel compelled to mention their graduate degrees at the park, apropos of nothing, because I've done it. I'm not sure why, probably to prove I'm at the park by choice, because I could be out earning a million bucks with my fancy degree. Huh. That is so embarrassing. As of right now, I resolve never to mention my degree again. Especially because I couldn't Social Work my way out of a paper bag.

There are risks to joining a book club. It's a lot of pressure. What if you have to read a book you hate? A lot of book clubs read Eat, Pray, Love. Hated it. I'll spare you my opinion of the first thirty pages, because that's as far as I got before I wanted to put my head through a wall. I settled for reading a passage or two out loud in a grating, whiny screech to my husband. He didn't like it, either*. Not only would you have to read it, you'd have to go discuss it, being careful not to offend anyone who loved it. Or you might be the person at book club that everyone secretly (or not so secretly) hates, because she shoots down everything. Or you might be the person I fear the most, the person of mediocre intelligence with no sense of humor who dominates the entire discussion. I had enough of that person in every English class I ever took. I might have been that person. Either way, I don't want to relive it.

And what about the study guides? Do book clubs actually use those? Scary. Almost every book marketed to women has them now, even those chick lit novels I love. They have questions like, "Do you think Amelia should have, like, broken up with the rich, hot guy and hooked up with the smart, but poor guy or should she, like, have rejected both of them? Why?" I solemnly swear that, if I ever write a novel and it gets published, there will be no study guide at the back. Well, unless I get paid a bunch of money and can't say no. But it would have to be a whole bag of money, like at least a thousand dollars. Or five hundred.

I feel more guilty about not liking museums. Maybe it's my ADD, but I just hate staring at stuff that doesn't move or do something. And museums are full of stuff I can't buy, so what's the point? I've been to the Louvre. I was far more interested in seeing if they had a café where I could stare at people than standing with the proletariat in front of the Mona Lisa. I like reading about artists. Their stories are usually chock full of drug abuse, sex and other interesting things. But staring at it? No thanks. Mona Lisa is just a person in a picture. I can't even remember what she's wearing.

Although I like to read so-called intelligent literature, I also have an affection for trash, the kind of books you buy on vacation when you can't go to the library, enjoy and never read again. The other day, I noticed about twenty such titles taking up space on my book case. Tonight, I'm hosting the Anti-Book Club. My party isn't anti-books, just book clubs. I've invited a bunch of ladies to come to my house, bring as many paper backs as they like and swap. These are the rules:

  • Drinking, eating and yakking starts at 7 pm.
  • Books will be dumped in a central location and book choosing will begin around 8 pm, or whenever I remember the point of the party.
  • The books should be ones you've enjoyed but don't need to keep. Chick lit, mysteries, biographies of people you don't really care about, etc. No parenting manuals or religious study books, please. Cookbooks might actually be okay, especially if they include cocktail recipes.
  • If you try to tell anyone about your book, you'll be kicked out. Immediately. And you won't be able to take your books with you, because we might like them.
  • If you ask anyone about one of their books, you'll be kicked out. See above for procedure.
  • The Book Swap is based on the honor system. Only take as many books as you brought.
If I forgot to include you as I was randomly emailing people, call me and let me know you're coming. I'd love to see you! But do not try to sell me on your book, m'kay?

Namasté, y'all!

* I wonder if any guy read that book. Not that they would admit it if they had.


Lizzie said...

On the bus this morning, two girls were talking about all the books they'd read and hadn't read but really want to. Girl No. 1 was selling her recent literary accomplishment to Girl No. 2 by saying the book was like a cross between Clockwork Orange and Diary of Anne Frank. Girl 2 says, Oh really. Wow. That sounds really interesting.

Susanna said...

I actually think I'd really enjoy a book club, but I've never been in one. Wouldn't even begin to know how to join one. I was the annoying person in college who actually answered the professor's rhetorical questions, and am not shy about stating my opinions. Maybe the local book clubs would actually be more serene and pleasant without me.

There's a group of us who meet for coffee every Friday, and we often exchange books, discussing the ones we liked and didn't like. Perhaps that kind of exchange is better than a regimented club.

sadie said...

I'm so glad you hated Eat, Pray, Love, you are the first person I've found to admit it. My best friend gave me the book saying I would love it and I didn't. The main character made me tired. P.S. I have a great volunteer opportunity for you and your social work degree - a tested way to annoy people and do good things for kids. Let me know if you're interested!

Anonymous said...

I thought Eat, Pray, Love sucked! I don't think I made it to page 30!! HA! If you like fun, then Jen Lancaster is your girl. "Such a Pretty Fat" is her new book and I swear I am the title damn character.. Much Fun!!
Thanks for your great Blog,
New summer pool friend!

Anonymous said...

Ha Ha, I have a Masters in Social Work and the only social work I practice is listening to my friends problems!

Grant said...

"Especially because I couldn't Social Work my way out of a paper bag."

That is brilliant...I am still laughing.

Tracee said...

I thought the writing style in Eat, Pray Love was...

hehe. just kidding. i won't book club you on your own comment section! but i am enjoying that book on and off. love the idea of your party, not sure i could shut up long enough to keep from getting kicked out!

Malia Rulon Herman said...

Great idea for a party! I'll have to get Eliz to thow one in DC. Or maybe we can just drop the books altogether and have a shoe/purse/clothing swap party. ;)