Reflections of the book club variety

I know you’re all anxious to hear to what extent depressing themes make a depressing book club discussion. The answer? Not as much as I feared. I thought the discussions were really great, and I liked that there were consistently questions asked by the facilitators that were different than I anticipated and really caused me to think.

I’m generally a pretty quiet person, but I found myself participating in interesting and unexpected ways. For instance, I found I had more to say about the Federalist Papers than about nearly anything else, which I could not have anticipated before the questions were asked. For stories that I found more personally¬†engaging (like “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”), I didn’t say anything at all.

The feedback we got on our survey was really great and helpful, too. Once again, I had some rather unexpected observations, internally and externally.

  1. It was really hard not to participate in the discussion about my own book. There were parts I really wanted to discuss and letting the book club do its own thing was a challenge.
  2. The thing that people consistently mentioned on our feedback had almost nothing to do with the story. The title of our story was “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried” but Al Jolson never figures into the story otherwise. Al Jolson was a singer and we played some of his music while people took the survey. Nearly everyone mentioned the music and/or Al Jolson in the survey. Is this related to it being the last thing we did or because people were really intrigued by Al Jolson? I guess we’ll never know, since none of the cohort was in my book club. (Did you do that on purpose, Kristin?)
  3. Silence is powerful, and people commented that they would have like more of it to think deeply about the questions we asked. Time, however, was limited.
  4. I’m… sarcastic? Yup, I got that on the feedback form. It wasn’t said negatively, and it might have had something to do with my joking around about coffins. (You had to be there.) I’ve never thought of myself as sarcastic, although I suppose I could be without being aware. I do like to laugh about stupid stuff, but no one has ever commented on my sense of humor before, aside from shooting me strange looks and rolling their eyes.

All in all, I’d like to say Bravi Tutti!* to my book club. Everyone did a very nice job and it was fun to chat with you all!


* What? I’m a musician. Fa schifo.


6 thoughts on “Reflections of the book club variety

  1. Kristin says:

    Awwww, I miss, “Bravi Tutti” from my days working for opera companies. The first time it flew out of my mouth reflexively, I shocked myself!

  2. Naomi says:

    It’s so interesting that you were more engaged when talking about new, different material than to the pieces you already have read and enjoyed. I have a theory that being pushed out of our confort zone makes us think more creatively on the fly; my students certainly had a lot more to say about things they hadn’t seen before than the neighborhood they walked through every day. Maybe it’s because we’re more excited by our own new ideas than the ones we’ve been thinking for years.

    • Meggan says:

      Actually, I hadn’t read any of the selections before. I think you’re right, though, about how being pushed out of your comfort zone makes you see things you wouldn’t notice otherwise. I heard something on the radio yesterday about how we brush our teeth the same way every day without thinking about it, but when we go on vacation we brush them differently without being aware of it.

  3. linguomancer says:

    Trying to incorporate enough silence into my book club discussion was really challenging. It was really hard to me to read if the conversation was stalling because people wanted to think or because they had nothing to say, so I tended to get nervous and jump in to cover the silence. Definitely an interesting thing to think about that was surprising to me, too.

  4. Tyson says:

    I agree about it being really hard not to participate in the discussion I was leading. My reading was about a topic that I had some experience with that I don’t think anyone else did, but I didn’t want it to be all about me, obviously! I think I erred a little too much on the side of participation and not enough facilitation. But it was a book club, not a Socratic seminar, so it was probably okay. We probably just shouldn’t have picked a text I had such strong feelings (or at least so many feelings!) about. Oh well.

    • Miss Masura says:

      I also found it difficult to not be a more active participant in my own book club. There is a fine line between leadership and tyranny and I could see it being way too easy to cross it.

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