Hey y’all! It’s Grace here to do a recap of May’s book club at Oxford Exchange.
For those of you who haven’t heard about my ventures before, I’ve been running a teen-focused book club for about a year and a half now. You can read my original announcements and explanations here and here for Inkwood Books and Oxford Exchange.
It’s really rewarding for me. At this point, I’m friends with many of the people in book club and love hearing their thoughts on the latest books, news, and personal goings-on. I’m also always aiming to grow the club, so I like to reach out to those I think might enjoy our conversations.
Recently – interestingly enough – our picks have been rather dark. Book club, and the people within it, do a fantastic job of getting me out of my comfort zone. February was The Tsar of Love and Techno, April was This Is How You Lose Her, and May was American Psycho. (In March, we read The Dharma Bums, which is admittedly much more my style.)
For book club, I drift towards existential picks that make me question a lot of the world around me. I like books that make me think. (Also, it’s way easier to moderate discussion when there are still questions that the members have – we get into a nice rhythm of debate.)
It’s not anything like AP Lit. There isn’t a right answer, or a wrong answer that we’re pushed towards. We also have a great diversity of thought within the regulars at book club, so I always know I’ll get a fresh perspective when I ask about the way a book handles religion or murder or romance.
It was entirely new to me. I’d never seen the movie. I’d never read the book. All I knew was that one of the characters was a serial killer.
I ended up binge-reading the entire thing, mostly because I was relatively certain that it wouldn’t be my cup of tea. I started it at around noon on Saturday and read it through until about 5 P.M., absurdly proud of myself for getting through four hundred pages without vomiting and/or crying. It’s graphic. Really, really graphic. Detailed scenes of disembowelment, rape, and other horrors were commonly sprinkled throughout the pages. I ended up taking notes on my phone so that I wouldn’t have to flip through it later during the actual discussion.
I’m not sure whether to be proud of you or scared of you, book club.
I finished American Psycho with the conclusion that Bret Easton Ellis has 1000% murdered someone, or witnessed a murder, in his lifetime. There’s no way you submerge yourself into a first-person perspective of that degree for seven years without experiencing some effects. Also, I have to marvel at the depth and dedication of his research.
I had an adverse reaction similar to that of when I read Flowers in the Attic: disgust, horror, and an entire hodgepodge of other emotions.
Yet despite my intense dislike of all of the content, I have to admit the skill in the writing. The stream-of-consciousness, the character development, the clever satire…it all has purpose. I could point out some pretty clear symbols and social commentary woven throughout the narrative. I feel like I could probably comfortably write an academic paper on several of the aspects of American Psycho that made it masterfully literary.
On Sunday, I took my observations to book club.
Many of the members hadn’t finished the book, but had read enough of it to get the gist. We got our special Tea for Tots treats, and quickly chowed down so that our enjoyment of the mini-cupcakes wouldn’t be dampened by the sobriety of our discussion.
And then we got into talking. I brought up my notes. Others mentioned personal reactions, specific instances of humor/terror, and we rapidly debated the mental facilities of Bret Easton Ellis, the illustrious author.
Admittedly, one of the most fascinating parts of running a book club is that we (referring to the regular participants) have started to really develop an understanding for how we as individuals read. Madison and Kassadie mentioned during our conversation that they’d discussed the rat scene with me in mind, hoping that I wasn’t too affected by the tortures it went through because I tend to “feel characters more deeply.”
I know Madison always tinges her observations with humor, and will generally be the first to tell me if she hated a book. Kassadie is adventurous with her reads, and always has these gorgeous reflections on subject matter that make me want to have really long conversations with her. Libby almost never reads the book – but when she does, she gets really passionate about it. I could go on, but I would talk for ages about how much I love the various people in book club. Also, we love having new people there! It’s always nice to have a fresh voice, especially since most of us seniors will be leaving soon.
So although I really really really wish I’d never read or heard of American Psycho, it led to an interesting discussion between a group of about twelve of my favorite people. Do the ends justify the means?
Next month, even though we’re still in our bell jar of dark reads, I’m really excited to be reading The Road. I’ve read a few chapters – and loved them – and I’ve already jotted down some literary techniques and poignant moments that I can’t wait to talk about. (I totally barged in on a conversation about The Road in an English class I shadowed in April.) I’ll be running book club on the Sunday of ALA Annual, so I’ll be darting from Orlando to moderate it.
It’ll be bittersweet, because it’s the last book club that I’ll personally moderate at Oxford Exchange. The past year and a half has been an extraordinary whirlwind there, and I’m grateful for the opportunities I had there. It’s also been so lovely to get close to the members of book club, people who I largely consider friends. In the meantime, I’ll be passing the torch down to my not-a-teen coworker Alex (who’s awesome), who’ll take over moderating and organizing book club. Meanwhile, I’m hoping that my fabulous juniors and sophomores step in to keep a solid group in there.
If you’re interested in coming to book club, please pop on in! We’re an über-welcoming, eclectic group of kids who just like to talk about literature, movies, and the ideas contained within them. We have really focused book clubs and really loose ones, and it’s so pleasant to have such refreshing, stimulating conversation.
Teen Book Club
The Road by Cormac McCarthy | Goodreads
June 26, 2016 at 3 P.M.
Commerce Club, Oxford Exchange
Free – tea and treats provided