Monday, February 20, 2012
The Stone Diaries; Or, My Book Group Failure
Well, I can tell you from first-hand experience, because that's what happened to me last Thursday. I had the second meeting of the library book group that I just started and nobody came. Not one person. I had tea, I had cookies, I had a Pulitzer prize-winning book to discuss, and nobody showed up.
The previous month, I had two people, and this was actually kind of cheating, because one of them also works at the library with me, and the other runs a group that I attended for several years (at the library branch where I used to volunteer). Unfortunately, neither of them could attend, so I was really hoping for a random stranger, or just someone to come in and keep me from eating all those Pepperidge Farm cookies.
But nothing. Nada. No one. I waited twenty minutes, and as I waited, I started reading the next book selection for the Teen Time Book Group which I am also running. (The book is The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey, and it's really creepy. And then I gave up and packed up my tea and cookies and went back to the reference desk.
Now, I know it's tough to start a book group from absolute zero, but I was hoping for at least ONE person. Could it have been my book selection? Book choices in library groups are tough, because if groups want to discuss the hot titles to draw in new members, you run the risk of choosing a book with about a zillion holds on it. I can't ask members to buy their own copies, because that sort of defeats the purpose, since it is a library activity, right? And I have to choose the book about two months ahead to get it into the library's newsletter. It's a vicious circle.
Maybe I chose the wrong book? It was The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields, a 1995 Pulitzer Prize winner, and admittedly, I chose it because it was on my TBR shelf, and because the library owned enough copies -- that's another problem, if you wait too long to select a book, the library will start deleting the copies.
Anyway, here are my thoughts on The Stone Diaries. It was okay. That's all I can come up with at this point. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it. Basically, it's the story of the life of Daisy Goodwill, from her birth in 1905 through her death sometime in the 1980s. Her birth itself is pretty shocking, then there's her childhood, her move from western Canada to Indianapolis, her love affairs, friendships, career, etc. Her old age and death are particularly poignant.
What's mildly interesting about this book is that her life story is almost entirely told through the perspective of other people, plus letters, diaries, and newspaper articles. It's all various peoples' memories of her -- almost none of it is told from her perspective or with her as the subject. There's a lot about all the people that surround her, her parents, in-laws, husbands, etc., but very little about her directly, so I guess the point is you're supposed to get a sense of what she was like from this second- or third-hand perspective. It's an interesting approach, and I liked parts of it, but I wasn't that excited about it. Maybe it was a bad choice for a book group that's just getting started. Honestly, I think it would have been great to discuss with my old library book group, because I know the people. There's a lot to discuss in it about the role of women, etc.
Now I have totally rethink this book group thing. Anyone else start a book group from scratch? Any words of wisdom? Do I need to have the people first, or pick the books first? Any sure-fire book selections to draw people in?
If nothing else, at least I finished another title for my 2012 TBR Pile Challenge. That's now three out of twelve, so I'm on track to finish at least one of my challenges this year. How's everyone else doing with their challenges?