“It was terrifying,” Ginsberg said. “He is the only historian we all admire. You want to do it right. You want to make sure the quality of the conversation lives up to its level of writing and investigation. Caro stayed for three hours and was, according to Ginsberg, “hypnotizing”. Carter, who came to discuss Lawrence Wright’s “13 Days in September,” didn’t stay that long, but impressed the group with his “incredible, almost minute-by-minute reminder” of the 1978 encounter with Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat.
Each age spawns its era-specific book club. At the origins of the hobby – mid-eighteenth century England – women, excluded from most colleges and scholarly gatherings, opened their salons to male luminaries in an effort of intellectual autonomy. In the 1950s, the Ledgers movement helped an economically robust post-war society flex its cultural and democratic muscles.
Inevitably, today’s book clubs reflect the political ethos of our times: here’s Martel and company discussing AIDS-era memoir “Fairyland,” there’s Ruhl discussing whether the play well done is essentially a patriarchal structure. At a time when public discourse has been sullied and political lines have been drawn in the sand, it makes sense that people want to bond with like-minded people.
“You know, these meetings are a test.”
Cassandra Lam is the Executive Director of The Cosmos, a community of self-identified Asian-American women. The proud daughter of Vietnamese boating refugee parents, Lam said many women in their 20s and 30s who are drawn to the group’s book club meetings grew up not seeing people who look like them in books or on TV. .
For example, at meetings devoted to Asian-American Diaspora literature written by women, “some people don’t have much to say because it’s so moving to be there. It’s like so many Asians who cried during ‘Crazy Rich Asians’: it’s not a sad movie, it’s just that these people had never seen each other before. At that moment, you realize that the limits of what is possible have expanded.
For Literaryswag’s Israel, these expanded horizons come with responsibility: “You know, these meetings are a test. The people in them will be your collaborators, your co-conspirators, the people you start businesses and families with.