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Book clubbing

There's a reason Iggy Pop never wrote a heady slow-swirling song about going book clubbing. Rachel Cusk in this week ever-slimmer Guardian Review (are they all on holiday, or has even the grauniad given up in the face of yet another series of X-Factor?), details one she joined:

The serious book club processed the steady stream of contemporary literature with the application of an all-female decoding centre appointed by a cultural ministry of war.

This is what puts me off book clubs. Like writers' circles, they raise the spectre of cultural conformity and a desire not to be seen to stupid. I always suspect they magnify a provinciality of mind because the people who become regulars are as likely to be there for reassurance as for argument. Perhaps it's the spectre of all those near silent seminars I attended at university, where no one wanted to be the first to venture an opinion in case it's the wrong one. Or the distant echo of English classes at school, carefully decoding Thomas Hardy and not being free to say "he's a monumental bore whose prose neither excites, invigorates or delights and whose plots are staid and stale". It's not the 'set texts' element: Austen was a 'set text' I disliked, unlike a year later I found myself wanting to read her again. And I could do with some order and structure to tackling the to be read mountain in my living room. So despite the fact I'm curious, I still sheer away from the idea of a book group like a frightened horse. Does anyone I know attend such things? And, like writers' circles, can they be better than my low expectations?

Meanwhile, I have a crowded weekend working up something, a mountain of day job writing to complete, someone visiting and a trip to Edinburgh. (Did I mention I have a ticket for Serenity? Oh, I did? Want me to mention it again?) At least I have some wine in the fridge and a vaguely clean attic for once.

Posted @ 6:16 pm on Saturday, August 20, 2005
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