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>Book Groups, Real and In Film

>I haven’t said much about my book group, BOOKLEAVES lately. A couple of meetings ago, we ate Indian food in Bundang and discussed Persuasion then traipsed over to Mitzi’s apartment to watch The Jane Austen Book Club and scarf down freshly-baked chocolate cookies and pumpkin empanadas.

For the following meeting, we read A Spectacle Of Corruption and met at a nice Italian restaurant in Gangnam called Mad For Garlic. The place is not misnamed; I thought I’d walked past the place, then my nose gave me the delightful information that I was on the right track. Wonderful food — I could have eaten my way through the whole menu without pause. The lower-level location and the dark wood paneling seemed to recall Benjamin Weaver’s clandestine meetings in disguise in out-of-the-way taverns and coffeehouses around London. Even better than the food was when Veronica showed up with 50+ books that she wanted to loan, swap or give away. Visit Amber’s blog to see a picture of my haul (the rest of the Green Gables series!) and me, looking every inch the bibliomaniac that I am.

Next week, on October 12, we’re meeting at our usual bright and friendly coffee shop to discuss The Road. It doesn’t quite match the bleakness of the novel’s setting. Maybe the weather will be gloomy and we could walk around the city and speak to each other in sentence fragments without much punctuation! Or not.

The beauty part of meeting at the usual coffee shop (which is called Angel-In-Us — isn’t that disgustingly cutesy?) is that Kyobo bookstore is one floor down, and that’s where we usually conclude our meeting. It’s a nice way to wrap up. I’ll need to go down there anyway to grab a copy of the following meeting’s book, Stumbling On Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. This is the first time we will have read any pop psychology in book group, and I’m eager to see how it goes.

As you can see, my book group is wonderful. Not only are all the members double-cool, but the group itself is intelligently done. For example, new members are encouraged to suggest books, and ideas for changing things up and keeping it fresh are always given consideration. Although members have come and gone, BOOKLEAVES remains vital and seems like something that could go on forever.

All of this is why The Jane Austen Book Club annoyed me so much. At the time, I enjoyed watching it because Amy, Amber and Rebecca kept up a steady stream of delightful snark throughout the whole picture, and of course, there were those cookies and empanadas. Afterwards though, the movie stayed with me in an unpleasant way, like a stubborn popcorn kernel lodged between the teeth and gums.

What about this movie bugged me so much? Yeah, it was a book group. Yeah, it was Jane Austen. So far, so good. But as conceived by the older woman in the group (I can’t think of her name, but the actress was Lynn Redgrave), the group was only meant to have six members and only meant to meet for six months. After that, Game Over. And no one objected! No one said: Yo, What if we want to keep meeting and reading? What are we — just a damn diversion for you while you grow your hair out and work on meeting husband #7? Begone, Dilettante!

And limiting the group to 6 members, with the one token guy? Please. What if a really cool bookwormish type like one of us had moved to the area and became friends with one of the characters? Sorry, we can’t invite you to our club because Austen only wrote six novels. Aaargh, excuse me while I gnash my teeth and possibly vomit. It wasn’t a book club; it was an effing sorority. I refuse to believe that any group could be that shallow. I’ve heard of groups that have had a Jane Austen phase, but they stayed together and had a George Eliot phase, a Charles Dickens phase and so on. The Jane Austen Book Club sounds smart, especially when they’re discussing the novels, but ultimately, it’s someone’s dumb idea of what book clubs actually are about.

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