I recently joined a book club–the “North Oakland Contemporary Literary Fiction Book Club”, in fact. My boyfriend’s roommate hosts it. I was like, “What the hell. I want to read more and I want to be more social. This accomplishes both.” So far I’ve been to one meeting, and I’m counting that as “joined”. I made bacon-topped cookies for the occasion, and everyone else brought snacks too–wine, cheese, the works. We all read Richard Russo’s Straight Man and argued goodnaturedly about whether the protagonist was pathetic or not. Actually, no one took the “not” position.
Photo by Rishad Daroowala. Please note that if you plan to join a group, it is a good idea to join one that is well-populated by middle-aged women. This demographic gets a bad rap, but they are GREAT at potlucks. Anyway…
Reading: does anyone do that anymore? Apparently yes, considering that 10+ people showed up to talk about a novel. But, reading: I have to force myself. Even Vogue articles take more dedicated concentration than they ought to. I write copiously, mostly about my own life–as evidenced by this article–and then I wonder, “Who keeps reading past the second paragraph of anything? Are people exasperated with my narcissistic prose like I am?” Of course, we’re all self-obsessed, but I feel like I carry it beyond cuteness.
A different book convinced me that I don’t want to write for the web anymore: The Shallows by Nicholas Carr. This is an oversimplification, but it’s all about how the internet ruins our brains and no one can sustain attention. We skim Wikipedia articles and we are grazed by the bullet points on BuzzFeed, but we can’t sink into a story for hours. Heck, if I want to read all of something, then I print it out. Otherwise the reading-all-of-it thing is just not gonna happen.
Of course, I still write for the web. I blog, and I’m literally writing for the web right this second. But I do constantly worry about whether anyone reads what I write. I worry because another thing I constantly do is notice myself skipping past most of what other people write.
Before going to the meeting of this book club, I had to speed-read the rest of Straight Man (about 50% that I left till the last minute). I got the book a few days ago and overestimated my reading capacity–I’m always too optimistic or I lowball myself, but I never guess my ability accurately. A couple of the ladies at this meeting reported that they’re in three book clubs–I repeat, two women who are each in THREE ENTIRE BOOK CLUBS. What I’m saying is that this generation is inadequate, and by “this generation” I mean myself.
What good books have you read recently?
Guest blogger Sonya Mann is an erstwhile student and reliable bunny-enthusiast, living with her parents in the East Bay. She writes a bunch of stuff, so check out her website.