Tonight I joined a newly founded bookclub, a flyer for which I saw in the local library. I’ve been a member of another bookclub for over a year now and it’s been so much fun that it was impossible to resist the temptation to join another more local one. Before I joined a bookclub, much of my discussion about books was in an academic arena and, for some reason, incoherent expressions of ardent enthusiasm don’t go down so well when everyone else has their serious thinking face on. I quite like having the freedom to make my point by gesticulating wildly with a copy of the book without having to wonder which senior member of staff would be rendered unconscious if I lost my grip. I haven’t brained any of my fellow bookclub members yet, but there’s a great freedom in knowing that even if I did, they’d be unlikely to derail my career in retribution.
This evening’s bookclub meeting had an added frisson of adventure because I’d never met any of the participants before. And the gathering was being held in the founder’s home which, given that I have a degree of anxiety about ringing doorbells, was also bold new territory for me. I was chatting with my brother about it earlier and he may have watched one too many Hallowe’en films because he thought it was very brave to go alone to the house of someone you’ve never met, and about whom you know very little, to meet with a group made up of equally unknown individuals. Who, he assured me, could be murderers. Apparently, though, the fact that I don’t fit the demographic of horror movie victims meant that I was unlikely to be the first to die. I should be thankful, he said, that I’m not young and attractive. He’s a charmer, that one!
The weather here tonight is certainly conducive to dark thoughts and melodrama: as I was battling wind and rain while driving to the meeting, I was thinking about my brother’s mention of bravery. I’m sure it’s telling but if I were to think of any part of the process as brave it was joining a group without knowing what book we’d be discussing. It seems much scarier to me to have to read a book chosen by an absolute stranger than to cross the threshold of said stranger’s house. They could have made me read anything. They could have had a torture basement lined with bookcases full of pony stories, or autobiographies of 20-something celebrities, or the kind of books that get made into the kind of films that women are encouraged to go to the cinema to watch while the World Cup is on. They could have confiscated the cleaning cloth for my glasses and I’d have had to undergo the further torture of smudged lenses. They might even have been the kind of reprobates who turn down the corners of their pages. They might have turned down the corners of my pages. (That would have been a foolish move on their part. The indignity would have spurred me on to a dramatic escape and when I wrote my tell-all memoir about the experience, I’d have publicly shamed them so thoroughly that they’d never get a library card in this town again!)
In the end, I’m thankful for two things: 1) the drive wasn’t long enough for me to work up a more detailed scenario and 2) my new bookclub friends seem to be lovely, welcoming, well-read people. They even let me suggest our next title. Which may have been the result of the fact that I probably talked too much (because I was nervous, not to cover the sound of the torture in the basement). They’ve even agreed to come to my house for our next gathering.
Brave, aren’t they?!