Spitting Against the Wind ~ The Sequel

thelampSo, after all my angst, I thought I’d better post and tell you about what happened at the library group on Monday.

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!

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11 thoughts on “Spitting Against the Wind ~ The Sequel

  1. I’m glad the book group wasn’t so very horrible. I think you have a good plan for future group meetings. I imagine the librarian/facilitator will appreciate it too!

    1. Yes, The Bears have their wellies out ready for Friday but nine inches of snow will bury some of them. What I hate, though, is having to cancel things. A friend had just rung to cancel our lunch on Friday and Sunday’s theatre is looking dodgy.

  2. I’m surprised the librarian didn’t come prepared with a decent list of open-ended questions and / or background information about the author to get the group talking. I’m happy, though, that the group seemed positive and social – they should respond well to your ingenious plan. Best of luck with it!

    1. Thank you, Naomi. I think the librarian might have been flawed by the fact that there is almost nothing to be found about Anna Smith. I know because I tried myself.

  3. The weather sounds awful- but the book title seems appropriate for it somehow. I hope the next book for your book group inspires more discussion, though it sounds like you have a good idea for generating the discussion either way.

  4. Excellent idea to have a plan. My experience is that pretty much any plan works – it’s having structure that makes the difference. In my book group we have a page of questions that get emailed round before we meet. Given that we read in themes (usually three or four books), we also have a sheet of questions about the themes, too. Plus, having books that all relate to a theme, we can talk comparatively, too, and that always opens up exciting new avenues of thought. That’s the essence of your plan, isn’t it? The comparative angle, and I for one definitely think it works well.

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