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How Very Un Bookclub-like Of You!

by The Dani Writer 27 days ago in literature

You don't know how happy you've made me!

How Very Un Bookclub-like Of You!
Photo by Ying Ge on Unsplash

I am a lover of books but less so of book clubs.

Maybe the groups I have seen previously came across as somewhat elitist (although the best honoring-diversity-inclusive-face greets potentials.) Or highly regimented (could I be silently ridiculed/shunned/kicked out of the club if I neglected to read the selected book one too many times?) Or just really straight edge and constricted. And books are not meant to be that!

My silent aversion must have bleeped the radar of the worldwide book club consortium. Perhaps my disparity was deemed subversive and required systematic obliteration.

I did not consider myself a threat.

The clubs just took me back to high school English class and those tranquilizing book selections that students like myself had no choice but to read yet seethingly detested. Perhaps, I have residual angst from the unimaginative archaic curriculums of yesteryear, which included texts like Pride and Prejudice, Macbeth, and Wuthering Heights. It was required reading for young teens sealing an almost eternal hatred for the classics.

Does my comfortable antiquated use of yesteryear drive home the point?

Not one classmate was caught passing folded notes to friends that questioned the intricacies of Victorian courting practice during the lesson. Or at home begging their parents for tickets to a theatrical production by Shakespeare.

And could we wait for the next Emily Brontë novel?

Yes, we could—like forever! No offense intended, Emily.

I respect and suspect that many readers love those books.

By Elaine Howlin on Unsplash

Against this backdrop, I guess conventional book clubs unintentionally evoked memories of those very little-room-for-free-expression-dark-ages-of-education days. I did not blame book clubs. But it is not remotely tantalizing for anyone to tell me with a smile that this is the book club selection for the month, and discussion will take place by this or that date.

I am a more independent uncompromising bibliophile.

If I start a book and should hear the dull sound of my metaphorical heels being laboriously dragged across the page to read it, there is no hesitation. I know that I am under no obligation to continue. End of story. There had to be like-minded beings somewhere in a world population of over seven billion.

Reading is about pure pleasure, not silent torturous agony over a book that I do not like.

Of course, there was also the possibility that an assigned book club selection could rock my socks off, 360˚ spin my mind to the cliff edges of reason, or let my heart meld into its world of characters so seamlessly that I lose present awareness for a while.

Although without varied choices, there was definitely a lower probability. There were no guarantees.

But I take my reading like I take my sex...

Trampy-looking solicitous unknown book: Hey sweet thing, I have a probable high degree of cataclysmic ecstasy on a regular every now and then. Interested?"

*What is the point of engagement if there isn’t going to be a consistent, guaranteed good outcome?*

My tempered response: Not sorry, but I stopped buying into low-yield investments in my twenties.

Truly memorable and timeless encounters breach the depths of soul and strive for more moments that blow our bodies, hearts, and minds to bliss. Was it unreasonable to expect to find a book club that would support that? Was I living in a demographic and expecting it to punch above its weight class? Did I just need to read alone and forget about it all?

How fitting that at the local library, I would catch sight of a poster on the notice board about a book club with a difference. It halted my usual descent down the stairs and had me reading and rereading the text up close and personal that went something like...

Renegade Readers.

Why had I not seen this intriguing invite before???

There are no selected books for members to read...Read what you want, when you want, if you want... and if you would like, bring it in to share with the group. You are even welcome to just come and listen. Participants may or may not have discussions on what is shared, with your literary offerings summarised anonymously in a monthly e-newsletter after the meeting. Free to join.

The whole thing felt very grassroots and cozy with everything I did not know that I yearned for or existed in a book club! It seemed like all over continuous surprises, not knowing who would show up and what they would or would not bring to read. It felt like a very un-book club kind of book club, and it was absolutely friggin’ marvelous.

By Alex Alvarez on Unsplash

At my first session, I sat with the regular book crew of about five; and their leader responsible for this brilliant scheme, in a small library meeting room. Everyone was friendly and relaxed. As the door closed, we could have been sitting in a living room, café, or beach hut for all the thick, rich atmosphere that descended unseen upon us.

Everyday adults keeping a passion and love of literature alive. Contemporaries like me, who may also have seen less than stellar school scenarios about early reading experiences.

There was no particular order for reading and sharing when it came time to start; just whoever wanted to go next would do so. Everyone was just so (as the British colloquialism goes) dead polite and welcoming.

When participants read passages aloud, I relished hearing where they would place emphasis. It spoke of encoded connections.

There were backstories on the treasures that were brought to the circle and secretive fan histories to certain authors. To see the way each held a book or glimpse handwritten notations scribbled along the pages satisfied curiosities and seeded new ones. At what age did you discover that writing in a book was not sacrilegious?

Offerings of fiction and nonfiction, creative writing, and poetry. There was an intense short story account that someone wrote of a boyhood dental visit, slightly embellished and brought in to read off of a printout. A naughty Victorian-era poem that I asked the supplier to reread three times. One or two attendees would ask how to pronounce difficult words or struggled with text and read anyway.

I reflected back to my early school years where a teacher would ridicule or embarrass certain classmates if they lacked progression in their language and reading skills. I understood why some children grew into adults who would not dream of picking up a book for fun. Who could blame them?

In the 1970s, each year level had color-coded boxed Science Research Associates or SRA cards for reading. That box designated your progress (or lack thereof), and students were separated by competency into tier-leveled

Photo by Kristinafh on Flickr

reading groups. With frequent individual readings aloud in class, spelling, comprehension, and standardized assessment tests with large, timed reading sections, it wasn’t all fun and games for everyone. Some students were traumatized or given anxiety complexes before young minds even understood what those conditions were. I still remember one young girl who wept as she was caned with a ruler for every 'reading mistake' she made on a selected passage in class. Learning styles, dyslexia, and ADD/ADHD did not exist in those classrooms. Please refer back to the fifth paragraph for the previously alluded to dark ages of education.

Image credit web.archive.org

While working in three bookstores back at home, I took personal satisfaction and a vested interest in finding a book that would interest the most reticent of readers. Vindication came from seeing the light flicker in their eyes that would have blazed a different relationship with books long ago. It should have never been so savagely extinguished in the first place.

It might have been comprehensive justice to have all of such caliber in a club like this with me. Aptitude, grade level, status, or prerequisites had no place here as we reminisced, made mistakes, laughed, questioned, and envisioned together while reading and being read to. We were all expert literary outlaws. Each of us. Renegade Readers. I could not have been bookin’ happier!

I enjoyed the group for about a year and a half. The county then decided changes were in order (as counties seem wont to do when things are going great.) The library was to move to another building—a smaller facility. It consolidated other public services. Space constraints would not accommodate our monthly book club meetings. The book club leader looked into a few additional options that were unpalatable and costly, so final meetings and reluctant goodbyes were given.

Ultimately, I discovered that my type of book club membership is made up of publication groupies. It is riotous and rebellious. It does not mind people with reading complexes or previous traumas or who need things repeated. It will tell you where to shove your reading lists. Reduce contracts, guidelines, targets, or goalposts to ash.

Such genuine individuals this guerrilla tactical reading battalion of mine. Because of them, I don’t worry about finding another un-book club kind of book club. It is because of them that I know I can always create one.

By Gaman Alice on Unsplash

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literature

The Dani Writer

My earliest memory is of being in ocean. Born and raised in Bermuda, I lived a childhood made of pastel joys. I've learned to make a delicious vegetarian lasagne, train as a registered nurse, and keep the juiciest of secrets. @thedaniwriter

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