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Likely Stories

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Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Monday, December 8, 2008 10:38 am
Book-Group Battleground
Posted by: Keir Graff

Usually I leave the book-group beat to Book Group Buzz, but since I also patrol the feudin’ and fussin’ beat, I’m going to poach this story. Sorry, I mean, share this story–I’d love to read some of their front-line observations on the topic. But Joanne Kaufman’s New York Times article, “Fought Over Any Good Books Lately?” gave me a much-needed Monday laugh. The article’s introduction discusses the book-group disillusionment of a woman named Jocelyn Bowie:

The last straw came when the group picked “The Da Vinci Code” and someone suggested the discussion would be enriched by delving into the author’s source material. “It was bad enough that they wanted to read ‘Da Vinci Code’ in the first place,” Ms. Bowie said, “but then they wanted to talk about it.”

Somehow, I think this article is just fuel for the fire.

(And, if I may digress, it occurs to me that The Book-Group Disillusionment of Jocelyn Bowie would make one hell of a children’s or YA book title.)

The article goes on to discuss the argumentation and acrimony that apparently infest a world heretofore imagined to be marked by genteel discourse and sipped white wine. Esther Bushell, who charges a pretty penny for her services as a professional book-group moderator, says her job is to combat the “ayatollahs” who hold other members hostage to their conversational demands. One group solved the ayatollah problem by banning off-topic conversation, but the competitive urge then shifted to the hosting battleground, so Susan Farewell quit when she couldn’t keep up with the demand for clotted cream.

But, apparently, all book groups have one thing in common: people rarely give the real reason when they quit.

3 Responses to “Book-Group Battleground”
  1. misha Says:

    I thought that this was a sad, slim excuse for an article. No librarians were interviewed, you notice. Just sayin’.

  2. MarianLibrarian Says:

    LOLZ. The stuff folks will quibble over….

  3. Keir Says:

    I agree, Misha, there isn’t much that makes it worth the time of the New York Times. But that doesn’t mean it’s not funny.


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