A peculiar thing has begun to occur at Book Clubs in New York. Yes, you can enjoy the same cheap wine and soft cheese. But a new member is joining.
As discussed in The New York Times yesterday, a new service called Book The Writer is offering book clubs the opportunity to have the author present at their book club for around $750. You could ask Winner of the Women’s Prize of Fiction A.M. Homes who her most detestable brother is in May We Be Forgiven. Pester Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cunningham about Nicole Kidman’s casting in the adaptation of his novel The Hours. Or even just tell Zoe Heller how amazing Notes on a Scandal was.
The practice of authors visiting book clubs to offer insight into their work isn’t anything new. For as long as there have been bookstores there have been author visits and readings, and invariably this evolved into book clubs of sorts. The biggest change to reading-writer interaction has come via social media where, instead of waiting in line for hours to have an author smile and sign their copy, readers are now able to interact over twitter and Facebook with their favourites. The thought of Salman Rushdie attending a Google Hangout is both incredibly exciting and incredibly strange at the same time.
The biggest risk the Book The Writer concept presents is endangering the reader’s right to their own interpretation of a novel, a factor that has ensured the survival of book clubs for years. Remember that friend who thought Yossarian had died and was actually stuck in purgatory in Catch-22? Imagine Joseph Heller taking a large chunk of their beetroot dip and telling them they were wrong all along. Sometimes it can be the holes in novels that excite us, that we fill with our imagination that binds a story together for us. Will we be able to enjoy the same freedom with an author filling those ambiguous moments for us?
Of course, having an author at your book club will lead to this, which like everything in Annie Hall, can only be a good thing…
What do you think? Would you be interested in having the author come to your book club? I know a guy…