I Liked the Book, But Do We Have to Talk About It?

Reading is personal, but anyone who has read that one fabulous book has a yearning to proselytize the story and convince everyone else that it is by far the best book ever written.  It helps if the reader is preaching to an audience who has not yet read the book.

Book clubs can be the place to confirm the wonder of the book,  if everyone agrees,  but most times, no one does. After listening to a dissection of the book’s plot, character, setting – the dedicated reader may even lose the original fervor for the book.   Author Francine Prose offered her thoughts on reading a book for a book club in an an interview with Jessica Murphy for The Atlantic…

“ … book clubs have had both a positive and negative effect. On the one hand, they do get people reading and talking about reading. But on the other hand, when you’re reading for a book club, the whole time you’re thinking, I have to have an opinion and I’m going to have to defend it to these people. The whole notion of being swept away by a book pretty much goes out the window.”

imagesBut what happens if no one likes the book under discussion?  and you happen to be the author?  In this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, author Kevin Baker recalls his experience when he inadvertently spied on a book club discussion of his book in I Read You Loud and Clear.  Listening to readers critique his book “Dreamland,” he reluctantly kept his identity as the author of the book secret, when he realized that no one really liked his story. He became “Tom Sawyer attending his own funeral.”

When friends ask me about my own writing, I usually defer, change the subject, get a coughing fit…

It’s hard to hear what readers think of your writing, especially when they misunderstand or really don’t like what you wrote.  Most writers are too thin-skinned to want or invite criticism of their work in person; those scathing written reviews can always be dismissed by spilling a cup of coffee on them.  I laughed at the last line of Baker’s essay when the author said the book club still tore him apart when they realized he had written the book.  Everyone’s a critic – yet another reason many writers try to stay incognito – it’s easier on our fragile egos.


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Downsizing Will Make You Happy?

How easy is it to go from a big house to 450 square feet? Not so much.

When I read the article in the New York Times today – “But Will It Make You Happy” – about the virtuous young couple who replaced a two bedroom, two car existence with a studio apartment in Oregon, I was not impressed.

Try replacing storage for over thirty years of accumulated memories, including inherited antique furniture, children’s homemade Christmas ornaments, sports equipment from skis to badminton, and too many photo albums. It’s only stuff – but it represents people and places that cannot be replaced.

Yes, it is doable. And, to tell the truth, most of it is not missed. But there are times when I wonder whatever became of that pottery bowl I used for baking the best bread – maybe it’s at the bottom of the storage box – under the bed.

Before giving and throwing away most of the “stuff” we would have no room for, I researched how to manuals – you know those books –

how to create a sanctuary out of small spaces – how to use every corner in your small space – how to use your ceilings for storage and your walls for closets…

One was particularly charming – if not very useful – maybe I’ll send a copy of Lauri Ward’s Downsizing Your Home with Style: Living Well In a Smaller Space to the loving couple in the article. – just in case they want to buy a third pot and a fifth plate.

It may be true that lots of money doesn’t buy happiness – but enough for a car service to those sushi-rolling lessons would be fun.