Monday, November 12, 2007

Carbon-based Vs. On-line Book Discussions

Leila at bookshelves of doom is running a discussion of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier at her website. She's calling it The Big Read.

I am so excited.

Years ago--and I mean years ago--a friend and I started a book club at our local library. Forgive me if I'm repeating myself, but we're not exactly a big reading town. As a result, most months we had three to five people show up. Five, in fact, was a crowd.

During the first few years, it didn't matter what we read, we always ended up talking about religion and sex. But after that, we deteriorated into the stereotypical joke book club. After a usually pretty weak ten or fifteen minute discussion of the book, the next hour and a half was spent talking about our kids and the awful things that were going on at the schools in town. Frequently only one or two people would have read the whole book. We'd often select some heavy titles-- nineteenth century novels, for instance--that took a lot of time to read, then we'd get to the meeting and find that only one other person had bothered.

The group meets to this day. You've got to hand it to the people who stuck with it. As I said, they don't get a lot of support. But I'm not there. The separation wasn't ugly, though. I managed to do one of those "It's not you, it's me" things. And, actually, it was.

After that I attached myself to a few on-line book discussions. Many were jut as bad as the real world book groups. But when you get a good on-line discussion, it is fantastic.

The first time it was good for me with an on-line group was at Readerville where the YA Forum discussed Jane Eyre. I had read Jane Eyre as a teenager and really wasn't all that impressed. But the discussion at Readerville made me a Jane fan. Some of the posters were graduate students who had studied the book and they brought wonderful stuff to the table.

The beauty of an on-line discussion, I found, was that you could mull over what others said and respond at your leisure. An extended book discussion allows for thought. Thinking adds a great dimension to talking.

Later, another group did a discussion of a Chuck Palahniuk book that was led by Lauren Baratz-Logsted. The discussion was supposed to last a month, and she kept it going until the very last day. It was great.

Those were peak experiences, of course. Not all discussions will be that great. Even the citizens of Readerville couldn't pull off a good conversation every time. And listserv discussions, in particular, tend to peter out fast.

But when an on-line discussion is good, it is very good. I have great hopes for the Big Read of Rebecca. If you have any interest in that bizarre little classic, head over to bookshelves of doom and check out what's happening.

2 comments:

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

Hey, Gail, thanks for the shout-out!

gail said...

Lauren--I have never gotten over what a great job you did on that book discussion. You are a leader among book discussion leaders.