It's Not About the Book

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a suburban mother, in possession of a young family, must be in want of a book club.* And to what end? Will they peruse Pride and Prejudice? Take on The Happiness Project ? Will they read David Foster Wallace or stick with Danielle Steele? The list of literary possibilities goes on. Luckily, the choice is hers and the variety of book clubs is endless, though most involve some drinking of wine, talking about schools, families, and husbands, as well as discussion of an actual book. Sometimes even a book about something besides schools, families, husbands.

Admittedly, there can sometimes be negatives: having to read yet another book about Afghanistan, the one member who vociferously hates every book or domineers discussions, or even the scheduling and organizational email mayhem involved with getting a group of 8 to 10 adults together these days. But the modern mother who finds herself, joining a group of intelligent, like-minded adults for dinner and conversation once a month can count herself lucky, even if she doesn’t always love the book.

Some modern mothers may choose to become conscientious objectors and eschew all book clubs. Perhaps they would rather curl up on front of The Millionaire Matchmaker. More likely, they don’t want to be obligated to spend precious time reading dubious books selected by committee. Whatever her reasons, the conscientious objector will doubtless find alternative reasons to get out of the house in the evening, mingle with her peers and satisfy her curiosity about the larger world: a lecture? a film festival? a gathering to learn about local non-profits? a consciousness raising? (Well, maybe not that last one.)

Like it or not, book clubs come with the territory of suburban motherhood, much like kitchen renovations, trunk shows, and summer house rentals. And since it's not really about the book, the well mannered mother can embrace her book club as an opportunity to stay current on topics fit for adult conversation, all while enjoying some camaraderie and a cocktail, if she is so inclined.

*with apologies to Jane Austen, the patron saint of women's book clubs, and author of Pride and Prejudice, which opens with the inimitable line, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

4 comments:

Kate said...

I, personally, have been overserved at my book club meetings many times! We do dinner and wine at ours, so it's all about the food and wine as much as the book.

Capability said...

Great post! The pros and cons of book groups are decidedly determined by the members - sometimes it is a breeze and a joy and other times, well, I am just too well-mannered to say. :-)

Nice link to A Step Up - Great organization - can't believe I missed you there!

Elizabeth Hammond Pyle said...

Kate -- it's so fun when its about the food, too! Do you pick food to match the book? Fun,but that does make reading something like Cutting for Stone kind of hard!

Capability -- Can't believe I missed you, too. Maybe we'll some day actually meet in person!

Kate said...

EHP--sometimes an overachieving hostess will match the food to the book. Not me.

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