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On book clubs...

I've never belonged to a book club. They've never seemed a good fit for me. First, I want to read what I want to read when I want to read it. Book club members read one title and come together to discuss it, either in the progress of reading or after finishing reading, or a combination thereof. I'm very picky in my reading selection, and if I were a member of a group of, say 13, and 7 or 8 decide we're reading something that I would never pick up on my own, I'd have a problem with that.

Strike one.

Then, as I said, they meet to discuss the book. I once visited a Barnes and Nobles in a Dallas, Texas, area mall and in the café area, a book club was underway with a discussion of Khaled Hosseini's THE KITE RUNNER, one of my favorite books. I was curious, so I got a cup of coffee, sat right next to them, stared at the table surface, and listened in. These book club members were dissecting layers of themes and sub-themes and symbols. They were telling each other what the author meant by this phrase or that plot turn. They were adept at the literary buzz-language I heard from my literature professors. They were working hard at outdoing one another, beating each other to the literary punch. One of my fellow teachers at the school which is my present gig and I were laughing our asses off one time about the characters and plot of Flannery O'Connor's short story THE LIFE YOU SAVE MAY BE YOUR OWN. I suppose for that moment we were a two-member short story club. However, we just had a great time reminiscing about a story we'd both enjoyed. We did not once talk about layers of meaning (which Miss O'Connor's work certainly lends itself to).

(What the author wrote: "The curtain was blue." What your English professor says that the author meant: "A veil of depression hung between him and his ever-fleeting hopes and dreams." What the author meant: "The curtain was blue.")

Strike two.

Don't worry...there is no strike three...yet. Even though these clubs wouldn't work for me as a member, I know their benefit to authors. These are readers coming together to discuss a book they read in common. I far prefer that to no one ever coming together to discuss books, simply because no one is reading any books. These clubs promote reading in a world that is increasingly less kind to and supportive of that pastime. And if I don't care to join one, I shouldn't. But I will not discourage anyone from doing so.

Last night, a local book club invited me to join their discussion of my novel VISITATION RITES. That would never have occurred without a dear friend of mine choosing it for their next book, and I'm eternally grateful to her. We met at a restaurant, and instead of discussing layers of meaning, they asked questions about my choices of character, setting, and plot points, as well as about myself as a writer. It was great fun. I know this is not how the club usually operates (rarely is the author present when a book club discusses his/her book), but I felt validated in my efforts as a writer.

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