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  • Laura Fedolfi

Confessions of a Malcontent (as it relates to bookclubs and behaving badly...)



You know the double-edged sword- the one referenced by every lazy writer when you want to convey that two things that seem divergent are actually related? That sword? Well, according to my husband (who has known me for a very long time and deserves some respect for his opinion) I have made an art form out of successfully propagating the idea that my strengths and weaknesses are actually somehow shared edges of the ole double-edged sword. The benefit he claims I derive from this magic trick is that I have created a reality where I don't have to do anything to improve on my weaknesses, because they are inherently part of the beauty of my strengths...pretty clever, eh? If he points this out in a "judgey" way, I tend to launch into my "sympathy" for his linear thinking- have you ever done that? It works about as well as telling someone to "calm down"...But more often he notes this practice out of the confusion of a reasonable person and usually I empathize with his burden of living with someone who more often than not finds her own failings entertaining. That is legitimately hard to live with if you are someone who works to learn from mistakes. So out of respect for his feelings, I try to laugh at my mistakes in private...some of the time.


All of this is a very long way getting around to a series of posts I will be doing about Book Clubs and those of us who have been malcontents in Book Club meetings. We know who we are- but if you need help self-identifying, consider the following:


1. Have you found yourself starting a sentence with, "I liked the book, but disagreed with the choice to [fill in the blank with any part of the story that drove you bonkers] ( and you might have been exaggerating about liking the book)...

2. Felt the need to apologize to other members of the book club, either that night, or weeks later, or when you bump into them at the grocery store or at the next meeting when...

3. You see people looking at you before admitting to liking the book...like they are waiting for your contribution (see#1)...


If any of these three things have happened to you, then you are likely a Book Club Malcontent. But don't worry. Remember the double-edged sword above? I am here to tell you that YES you have been a terrible book club member, but that is because you are in the wrong club. You aren't a bad person- you are bad at sitting and liking books with other people. You just need to take that awesome critical energy to a different setting. In the right setting, it's a strength.


When I think back on the most recent two book clubs I stopped attending I am honest enough with myself to think that both groups probably breathed a sigh of relief when I stopped attending. And it wasn't because they weren't critical readers or unkind- they were smart, amazing women; they just weren't gathering to mix it up and disagree. That's where I went wrong. Maybe it's because I grew up one of four fighting and disagreeing with my siblings, or maybe it was because my favorite part of school was scrapping about ideas, not as debate, but as full-contact "idea battle royale." I love disagreeing about ideas, because that is often when I get pushed to think about something from a different angle and learn.

The learning that I take from this is not to be less disruptive at book clubs, but to not join any more book clubs at all. If I want to talk with other folks about the ideas in books- folks who want to mix-it-up idea-wise, I need to join that club- and if I can't find it, I might have to start one with other Book Club Malcontents- it could be so much fun! (And think how happy we will make all those book clubs!) Coming soon...How to Disagree about Ideas and Not Want to Physically Assault the Other Person...


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