Despite my passionate and abiding love of reading, a love that stayed alive through an English degree and far too many dead white guy essays, a love that sustained me through the awfulness of teen years and a family undone, a very tactile sort of love that marks the books I’ve read with dog-ears, water-wrinkled pages and bookmarks like breadcrumbs, despite my desire to talk about and pass along the books I have mauled with my love, I broke up with bookclubs.
Bookclubs, in my experience, have failed to live up to my relationship with books.
The first one filled me with optimism: I went to the first meeting with the book read and cross referenced despite the very young baby I had shredding my attention span at home. I was so excited to talk to other grown up people! About a book! I brought a notepad and collateral reading material to that meeting along with my hors d’oeuvre. We were gathered in someone’s living room in a circle. The room filled up with plates and women. To my utter dismay they never talked about the book. They talked about their babies. I was tongue tied with frustration. It is possible that I wept on my way home. I had stolen from precious little sleep to read that book, fought to get a night out. I wanted a bookclub not a group hug.
The next bookclub was by a friend’s invitation. I essentially crashed their cozy get togethers and quickly became the group’s serious girl, constantly wanting to bring the conversation back from the recipe for the (admittedly delicious) lemon squares to the book. This bookclub wanted to read good books but they also wanted a monthly night out. Some wine. Some lively conversation with a book on the side, like salad. Good for you but not the point of the meal. I quit that one too.
There were a few more efforts. My last bookclub met in fits and starts and we talked for real about the books. But we were mothers with busy lives, jobs, crowded kitchen calendars. We dropped out, reappeared, some not showing up for many meetings at a time. We forgave the lapses, we were all mothers after all, and flu season is a bitch. The e-mail round robins as we tried to organize were pretty lively but when the meetings ended up being three people, one of whom had not yet read the book we realized it was time to let it go.
Now I have discovered a new version: the online book conversation. No hors d’oeuvres, no cleaning your house when it is your turn to host a meeting, no chit chat about the kid on the field trip last week. There is limited space for rambling, a decent length of time to read the book and you can sit in your flannel pajama pants and an old hoodie with a filthy cold while still taking about a book.
There are many virtual bookclubs flourishing out there, but as I am biased, lazy and because Wanda is a fantastic moderator I participate in the bookclub right here at Bookalicious:
This month we are reading Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult. Thanks to Wanda, I attended an author event in Vancouver (subtext: a night out, on my own, to hear the author speak. About books!. No nonsense. That it was held in a church added to the divine.) If you feel inspired to read the book, and want to talk to other grown ups, come on in on March 30th, eavesdrop or participate, it is up to you. We meet on Twitter. During the chat we will use the hashtag #SingYouHome and Wanda recommends following the tweets on TweetChat. There may even be some talk of children but don’t expect me to chime in until the juicy booky parts."
When the tide is ebbing, the sandy flats of Vancouver’s Spanish Banks go out as far as your eyes can sweep. It looks as if the huge tankers in the middle of the bay will soon be riding up on the sand banks. The channel buoys stand sentinel over fishing holes for herons and vast soft shoals of dripcastle kingdoms. The tidal pools, I learned, are also a portal of sorts.
Perched at the edge of the beach with a blanket laid along a log, I watched the tide recede, buckets and shovels at my feet with two small girls and a day’s worth of snacks, sunscreen, hats and towels. We were pleasantly industrious – swimming, digging, treasure seeking, and chasing the water’s edge as it ran away from us across the flats.
I wore a sarong, a big floppy hat, sunglasses. The girls were ever close by, and there was too much mom-stuff over my shoulder, but I had watched the young dudes (Yes, dudes is the only applicable word; they were fit and fearless, sporting nothing but baggy shorts and bravado.) all afternoon and finally my curiosity overcame the barrier of self-consciousness. I had to ask: can I try that?
As the water shimmered into ribbons and stretched across the sand I had watched the dudes show up with their boards singly, in groups, following the tide. They threw the boards, oval wooden flying saucers about a third the size of a surf board which skimmed across the water, and then they ran like hell and jumped aboard. They soared along. It looked so fun. They made it seem effortless, a simple matter of a flying leap onto a watery joy ride. After witnessing a few spectacular back-searing wipeouts I realized some degree of finesse was required.
I approached the one who seemed the most skilled. He was short and wiry, confident and sculpted with a shaved head. He looked part yoda, part surf boy. He eyed me warily as I approached him, no doubt wondering what bone this mother in the oversized sun hat had to pick with him.
He was very generous and if he laughed he did it discreetly behind my back while allowing me to risk my fool neck and his skimboard on my maiden voyage across the sand. I threw the board. Ran. Hesitated. Jumped on the board. Went nowhere. The skimboard planted itself firmly just under the surface of the water’s edge. Yoda dude showed me again, offered me his board again and this time, I leapt without cringing first. I swear my tailbone covered her eyes and I just ran, jumped, and did not fall. I wobbled across the edge of the water, then after a few more attempts, I skimmed. Yoda nodded and smiled his approval. I felt shyly delighted.
My skimboard does not make it out from its storage place under the stairs very often. But I like having it there. It reminds me that there is still the possibility of heedless flight, of grinning into the wind like I did when I was eighteen and felt unbreakable. The trick is never to hesitate."