A few years ago a friend and I wanted to start a book club for two reasons. First, we felt that it was a very classy thing to do, and second, it would give us a reason to drink wine in the afternoon and not feel guilty, especially if we threw in some nice herbal teas to stem the flow of alcohol. So we decided to start one. We quickly became overwhelmed as we realised to have a book club you had to read, and you not only had to read you had to demonstrate in some elegant way, what you read and why you might have liked or loathed the book. You had to have background knowledge from which to colour your thoughts and make comparisons with other writers. That’s a lot. So to do all of that convincingly, you needed to cultivate literary elegance. My friend and I agonised over this for a while. We did read and we conversed a little. But we never learned to elaborate our ideas and compare genres and speak eloquently. ‘That’s crap!’ Or…’Bored me to death’ were some of the descriptions we came up with when discussing books. So…hoping to expand our repertoire and learn the art of conversation (whilst drinking) we said ok, let’s do it. Let’s start a book club.

Enter Oprah

Where do you go when you want to find out everything about life ? Oprah.com. Who has the best book club in the world ? Oprah. Who is the best TV conversationalist ? Oprah. Problem solved. However, there was one small snag. Oprah is a connoisseur of all things literary. Additionally, her spiritual level is right up there. Her oral skills unmatched. Her book club guide was not for two women, with limited narrative descriptions who often could not tell the difference between the protagonist and the antagonist. As I downloaded her guide, the questions she laid out, the emphasis she put on rigorous analysis, the knowledge about character-building, peppered with interesting anecdotes….I literally shrivelled up inside. It was like reading the Holy Book of Book Club Etiquette. But I soldiered on and compiled my findings to discuss with my friend for us to decide what next.

The audience

Naturally we had to decide who was going to be in our book club. We were aiming for euridite! We both agreed that anyone we targetted had to be eloquent, charismatic and most importantly, non-belligerent when infused with alcohol. We set about ruthlessly scratching off all our favourite drinking buddies and wine guzzlers as potential members. Even though some had been very keen to join not realising it was going to be a real book club, with books and not a rum shop lime with geera pork and spicy chicken wings. They were after the allure of alcohol and mindless chatter, I suppose. But we were on a mission to learn, not just how to read, but to memorise sentences and paragraphs to quote publicly when having our discussions, by heart. We did identify some friends who were well read and enjoyed quoting, and who loved hearing themselves talk… but often they were very bad at exchanging ideas and would break out into expletives and insults if someone dared to disagree with them.

Time went on. Oprah read more and more books. We followed her diligently, took notes and still nothing happened. Her book club franchise grew and grew and we never got our book club off the ground. I don’t know why. We did however, continue to have wine drinking sessions, my friend and I, where we tried to talk about why a book may or may not be good and what we thought about its appeal or not. Me saying, for example why I wanted to nominate ‘100 Years of Solitude’ by Marquez, because it had a great title. A title that seems to be begging the entire continent to stop prattling so much and think instead.
– “That is not a literary or learned take, Ms Nina”.
– “Be that as it may but you cannot expect a silk purse from a sow’s ear now…can you?!.”

Well that was the beginning of the end. Soon after our book club idea just died a natural death. At times we blamed each other but in the end, we both agreed that talking elegantly about life through literature was not something we had a talent for. As years passed…..we lost the dream of the book club but the desire to scale the heights of elegant thinking and conversation, remained.

From Book Club Ashes to Blogospheric Birth….

Enter blogging! The beauty is…you don’t have to be literary or learned. Granted it is not as classy as a book club but that’s ok. You could drink wine too whilst online without getting disapproving glances! It is a wide open space and I relish that. I am still hoping to acquire elegant thought and lovely expressions, so it seems natural I would explore such a platform. Plus you do not have to ‘hand-pick’ your audience. Nor do you have to worry about learning any passages or lines by heart. You can always find a poster or google to help your memory. Oprah I am thinking, has set up some guidelines for the uninitiated and the ungifted, so with that in mind, I think I could give it a whirl. I just hope that her blog guidelines should they exist, are not anywhere as grand as her Book Club Holy Grail guide….I really couldn’t take another failed attempt to become an elegant thinker. Wish me luck and hope, that after all this time, my inner sow does indeed find her silk purse…

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