As most of you predicted everyone was very pleasant and there didn’t appear to be anyone whose views were always right even if everyone else in the group thought differently. (I’ve come across this before in library groups, where to a large extent the members are self-selecting. Bit by bit the group disintegrated as people drifted away no longer able to take the animosity.) So, from that point of view, it was a success. However, there was another difficulty. Clearly, the group hasn’t been going very long and no one, including the leader, has much experience in talking about books. When you add to this the fact that the book chosen didn’t exactly lend itself to much beyond ‘I liked it’ or ‘I didn’t', it wasn’t surprising that conversation ran out after about fifteen minutes. I know the ‘popular’ image of book groups is ten minutes talking about the book followed by a couple of hours putting the world to rights, but that isn’t what I’m used to from my other meetings and I don’t think, in the long term, it is going to satisfy other people, especially as being in a library there isn’t even so much as a cup of tea on offer.
So, I have a cunning plan.
To fill out the hour, the librarian asked us to talk about something else that we’d recently enjoyed. I wasn’t prepared for that on Monday, but next time I am going armed. I’m going to take a book that in someway or another contrasts with the one we’ve been asked to read. I have a list of elements within a book that might make it interesting to talk about. For example, we might talk about the narrative voice, the chosen tense, the use of flashback, the importance of setting. Whatever seems of particular interest in the chosen book, I’m going to make that the focus of my comments and then, when I’m asked to suggest another book, pull out one that allows me to take that discussion further through contrast.
I know, once a teacher, always a teacher, and it might not work, but if I can introduce new ideas that will help the group develop handles to feel their way through to being able to express why they like or dislike a text then I hope that might be something they would enjoy. After all, if they don’t like it they can always send me packing.
Typically, one of my other groups where we talk about the book for a couple of hours at a time has had to be cancelled this evening. We all live locally and we’re very high up here. Consequently, it has been extremely cold and the weekend snow has turned to ice, making the roads and pavements treacherous in the daylight and suicidal after dark. I think in eleven years this is only the second time the weather has defeated us but there are times when even the delights of book talk have to give way to self-preservation. Drat it!