I’ve always wanted to join a book club, I’ve just never known which one or really what to expect. I have a vision that it would be something a little like an amalgam of The Dead Poet’s Society and The History Boys. But with more cake and, of course, more women. People would recite poems from memory, pausing only to cram another homemade scone into an already word-filled mouth. People would share snippets of narratives they themselves had written and the recommendations for what to read and why would quickly fill the long tube journeys for years to come… We could even host a session on a tube! A whole carriage of people with books and book chat journeying recklessly across the capital.
And so, in the absence of any formalised group to read with, I’ve become a long-established one woman book club. And quite honestly, that’s something I’d like to change. We have thousands of wonderful readers here at East LDN magazine and we’re calling on you now for input, ideas and inspiration! If you’re bookworm and want to be part of a literary band of misfits… then look no further! We’re looking to establish some community spirit, we’ll start here and then please comment with books and venues and any general literary loveliness on our socials, get in touch with us and share the article and love far and wide! We’re all ears (and eyes).
What do you read? Where do you read it? And who do you discuss it with? Tell us on instagram, facebook and twitter- let’s enliven the East with wordy wonder!
For my part, I’d love recommendations even for my own personal reading. Exposure to new writers as well as new friends! I worry that my reading is becoming increasingly niche and esoteric. I was told recently that listing your Top 5 books and unifying themes can reveal a lot about your personality. I studied English at university and the overall experience was essentially having to read a lot of shockingly shit literature (shiterature), almost exclusively written by men and without merit other than it’s erroneous place on the canon. Five years after graduating, my Top 5 are all women and all postmodernists. I’m not sure what exactly that tells me about myself (or more likely, I don’t want to) but I do know that somewhere that’s a reaction to the man canon!!
Let’s quickly delve into some of these Top 5…
If you haven’t read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, I’m sorry but you must. It’s becoming painfully more poignant too with the atrocities in law-making occuring in America. (You may have even noticed that the pro-abortionists are wearing the Handmaid’s uniforms in their protests outside the courts).
The parallels between the book and current affairs are uncannily close. In the novel, the fictional state of Gilead takes away all women’s bank accounts and then they slowly but surely take away everything else, until women are entirely subjugated under the regime. Scarily still, Atwood herself names this genre of apocalyptic, societal crisis, ‘speculative fiction’: not quite sci-fi because the narrative is entirely based on historical events. Each horror, each denial of personal freedoms is based on something that happened in our world. She cites the reason as a self-defense mechanism against the readers who would spurn her hideous imagination in coming up with such abominations, but I think it’s probably more politically motivated than that.
The best thing about Handmaid’s is that once you’ve finished it, bereft and bemused, you can take comfort in the fact that Atwood is possibly the most prolific writer known to humanity. She has written SO MANY books. We could establish a group dedicated to reading her work alone and look forward to growing old together. There’s nothing more heartening than finishing a great novel only to discover that the author has written many, many others. And what’s more (!!): she has a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale coming out in September this year, 34 years after the original. I’ll see you in the queue.
On the non-fictional and factual side, we have Maisie Hill, Mary Beard, David Foster Wallace and many other brilliant and belligerent minds. Foster Wallace is a sardonic genius and, if you’re a writer as well as a reader, his essays are widely available online. I’ve recently relished the look on people’s faces when I whip Period Power. out of my bag on the tube and start examining Maisie’s anatomical diagrams and wisely witty words. It’s nothing short of a revelation to me and I’ve been recommending it to everyone I know. I was so empowered and effusive about it, my boyfriend kept asking me if I’d finished already so that he could begin his own vulva-based enlightenment. As for Mary Beard… wondrous deity she is! Start with Women and Power and move onto SPQR and embroil yourself in Roman culture in this raw and most raucous recollection.
Over the course of the next week we’re publishing our interview with ladies behind the literary quarterly, Slightly Foxed. If you don’t yet feel overly inspired to grab a book and run for the nearest park, you certainly will do upon hearing the beatific and bountiful recollections of the people who describe their magazine as more like conversing with a warm and well-read friend than a literary review.
In the meantime, happy reading and let the book chat commence!