‘I’m smart. You’re dumb. I’m big. You’re little. I’m right. You’re wrong.’
Matilda, Roald Dahl.
There’re nowt so queer as folk, and equally, none so queer as book obsessed folk. The likes of which pass into and through Books@One, Louisburgh, County Mayo at an alarming rate.
We have met cyclists on their race to conquer the Wild Atlantic Way, students visiting the West of Ireland from Spain, India, Africa, the U.K., America, Mexico and China. Visitors stop en route to the beautiful islands located in Clew Bay and out into the Atlantic. Locals call in to the shop for their caffeine fix.
We are a thorough thoroughfare for all walks of life. Conversation in the book store is diverse and plentiful. However, as Books@One is a haven for book lovers, for storytellers, for literary enthusiasts, it is also a mecca for fisty-cuffs, rising blood pressure, rude hand gestures (and that is just between the staff). What pray tell am I talking about? Choosing a book for Book Club of course.
Louisburgh is fortunate in its love of the written word and there are several books clubs in the locality. So in an effort to protect the identity of the fisty-cuffers (I’ve already given you a clue...), let me just put a caveat into this week’s blog post. All observations are generic on the operational procedures of book clubs…no book club members were hurt in the making of this blog.
‘You have to read this book… it is absolutely amazing,’ say lots of people the world over. Once you recommend a book to someone it is like giving them a gem, a gem of literary gold and you know they will fawn over this book to the same extent that you did…won’t they? Won’t they! Why aren’t they!
What if they ridicule so completely the literary opus that changed your life you consider unfriending them…not in the Facebook world but in the real world?
Even though book clubs are contentious beasts and can scupper the most solid of bookish friendships, they are jolly good fun, a great way of meeting new people you might otherwise not engage with, and the premium place for literary discussions (and the odd glass of vino). The one thing that book clubs do is push you to read something you would never, never, NEVER read in a month of Sundays. The most amazing thing about book clubs…when you begrudgingly crack the spine on that piece of ‘women’s fiction’ or ‘literary classic’ (eyeballing around you to make sure no one has seen so your street cred is still intact) …is the fact that you learn to love genres that before you were oh so sceptical about.
And then of course there is the heated debate! The argy bargy, stemming from complete passion and conviction of one person’s love of a particular piece, over another person’s distaste for it. Thankfully, that is not always the case. Sometimes book club goers can be so ecstatically in love with a text, they all sway in unison when delivering their verdicts of ‘marvellous’, ‘spectacular’, ‘awe-inspiring’.
But where is the fun in that.
Debate (noun: a discussion, as of a public question in an assembly, involving opposing viewpoints) brings another aspect to books. It makes books come alive in a different way, there is attack and defence, arguments for and against.
Some books throughout history have garnered intense debate. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence for example. Ireland’s own Edna O’Brien’s Country Girls, Nabokov’s Lolita and in more recent times, the entire Fifty Shades of Grey series. Books and debate go hand in hand.
Unless of course you are Harry Wormwood from Matilda and believe you are omnipotent in all things, particularly your verdict on the latest book club book.
At Books@One we have read some corkers. They include Sebastian Barry’s Days Without End, Rachel Polonsky’s Molotov’s Magic Lantern, Saroo Brierley’s Lion and Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries.
Jury is out as to the next literary pick but I can’t wait for the next Book Club meeting.