Monday, December 08, 2008

"Funny" Book Club Analysis at NY Times

Joanne Kaufman at the New York Times writes an interesting article about book clubs called "Fought Over Any Good Books Lately?" She talks to book club members, both satisfied and disgruntled, about the tricky nature of a good book club. There's drama, squabbles, personal therapy, high-minded politics, etc. What was most interesting to me, though, was the existence of a professional book club facilitator. That's right, a professional book club facilitator. First of all, I didn't realize that you could get paid for this, and secondly, who is that serious about a book club? It seems a lot like school when you hire a teacher to instruct the class. Why a professional?
"“It’s because there’s an ayatollah,” said Esther Bushell, a professional book-group facilitator who leads a dozen suburban New York groups and charges $250 to $300 a member annually for her services. “This person expects to choose all the books and to take over all the discussions. And when I come on board, the ayatollah is threatened and doesn’t say anything.” Like other facilitators, she is hired for the express purpose of bringing long-winded types in line."
Again, I have two issues. First of all, $250-$300? Who are these people that are paying this woman? And second, why not kick out the "ayatollah"? Why the hell do they put up with someone they so obviously dislike? It is baffling, to say the least.
There is a brief comment about online book clubs: "Lately there have emerged plenty of online-only book groups too, though — given the difficulty of flinging a drink in the face of a member who suggests reading Trollope — those are clearly a different animal." Yes, it's forcing members to play nice, but it also keeps the focus on the book. No drama, no outside discussion. Only books.
The thing I like best about the online book club is the ability to contribute to the discussion at any point - the conversation will continue whether the books are read or not. If you don't have time to read the book, or just don't like the selection, you don't have to contribute. There's no pressure here - no obligation. Just enjoy the books and the subsequent discussion. Me? I enjoy facilitating. Which reminds me: I'll need $250 from everyone.

1 comment:

Bonnie said...

Here's one of the Jezebel girl's take on the book club:

Tis funny.