Bookclub Serenity Now!
Funny how the thing that used to bug me most about my former bookclub is the thing that puzzles me most about my current, otherwise HIGHLY entertaining bookclub. That is -
“I haven’t read the book, but… [insert lengthy soliloquy on topic at best tangentially related to the book].”
Clarification: I’m not troubled by bookclub readers who give it a go, read a respectable chunk, can’t finish or otherwise invoke the “life’s too short” escape clause. I’ve been there myself and am totally okay w/ readers who want to discuss a book they’ve given a fair shake. No, I’m talking about the people who attend a bookclub meeting when they Haven’t. Even. Started. The. Book.
Who are these people? Are they wannabe readers too shy to take that first hit and risk becoming literary addicts? Undecideds too terrified to plunge in w/out a focus group of advance readers to assure them it’s okay? Are they lonely people who just want to talk? Are they book-voyeurs who take pleasure in hearing other people discuss books? Are they some sort of cosmic joke played on each and every bookclub in existence? The “evil” anti-reader?
And what do they do after the bookclub meeting? Do they read the books? Or do they feel they’ve now absorbed it by osmosis; the readers’ discussion substituting for any need to actually read the book?*
What used to gnaw at me and generate a (false) righteous anger now simply bewilders me; the anti-reader as much a bookclub archetype as the English Major and the struggling writer. I’ve gone from a place of high-horse resentment to one of fascinated curiosity. What makes these non-readers who attend bookclubs tick? What’s their deal anyway?
*Cf. “I didn’t read the book, but I saw the film.”
Brazilian cable car transformed into a…. LIBRARY!
foto & post via Pop-Up City
Maurice Sendak (a recollection)
Maurice Sendak was the source of my first lesson in library and reader advocacy. My mother (a school library aide) and Mrs. Larson (the librarian) staunchly defended the inclusion of Sendak’s books in my elementary school library; defending them against parents who were determined to limit their circulation, censor them, or ban them altogether. Mom and Mrs. Larson knew rebellion was part of childhood, nudity was a natural state, and darkness could be experienced by children as much as it is experienced by adults. Their love for Mr. Sendak’s books was fierce and infectious.
I probably ought to have had my own copy of Sendak’s “Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life” for as often as I had this book checked out from the school library. At first it must have been the drawings, the sensitivity with which Sendak drew his main character Jennie, a Sealyham Terrier, who I later learned was modeled on his own beloved dog.
Jennie’s longing for adventure captured my imagination; that discontent, the impulse to run away into the world, to look for “something more than everything.” And then there was BABY. Has any author managed to convey better than Sendak how overbearing, greedy, and TERRIFYING a baby can be? and with such breathtaking honesty! All my ambivalence about responsibility for younger siblings, my apprehension about taking on the babysitting jobs pre-teen peers seemed to actually enjoy, right there on the page, embodied through words and drawing in one truly memorable character. Genius.
In Baby I found expression for my “different” feelings. In Jennie, I found kinship. In Maurice Sendak I found an author who understood and spoke to the full range and complexity of childhood experience. I like to imagine the elementary school library copy, well-loved by successive generations of young readers, has been replaced many times due to wear and tear, but has never been censored, never held in closed stacks, never been banned altogehter. And I do have my own copy of “Higglety Pigglety Pop!” now, signed by the author, a treasure in my personal library.
Mr. Sendak, if I ever get to the Castle Yonder I’ll be sure to look for you.
As you probably noticed, I went away forever. I am very experienced now and very famous. I am even a star. Every day I eat a mop, twice on Saturday. It is made of salami and that is my favorite. I get plenty to drink too, so don’t worry. I can’t tell you how to get to the Castle Yonder because I don’t know where it is. But if you ever come this way, look for me.
Maurice Sendak, “Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life”