It appears my weeks is filled with book clubs.
Last night was the first meeting of Bookworms, a book discussion spin-off group from the main youth groups I work with on a regular basis. Attendance was only two (eight youth in all took short story packets, so I knew it would be a small group, at any rate), but we had a lot of fun. We discussed Girl by Jamaica Kincaid, The Pool Witchby Clay McCleod Chapman, Boys and Girls by Alice Munro, and Small Countryby Nick Hornby. I chose to start with short stories because a packet of thirty pages is a lot less intimidating than a book, plus school is still in session (many of my missing youth were studying for finals).
The main rule for Bookworms is it’s okay to say you like something or don’t like something, but you have to back up why. That’s the rule, and it’s what we’re trying to help each other learn how to do. The stories they liked, we talked about why. When we read Girl out loud, we laughed together and talked about why it was funny. For The Pool Witch, we went through it picking out the great action verbs, and for Small Country, we talked about three-act structure and how plotting can work. The story they didn’t care for, Boys and Girls, revolved around the vivid telling of killing and skinning foxes on a fox farm. However, we were able to determine why the act was so revolting – Munro is a sensory writer, using specific imagery and appealing to as many senses as possible. The two young women in attendance thought it was cool to pick up on that. Ninety minutes went by before we knew it. They were attentive, I was willing to listen, and all three of us were excited.
My latest Scrawl, Boy, is a shortened version of the writing exercise we did last night – using Girl as inspiration, write a short story from a father to son entitled Boy. The girls in attendance did a wonderful job, both language and humor. Lucky me, they plan to spread the word that Bookworms is the place to be this summer. Next month, we discuss Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Yes, that makes two Gaiman books I chose to read for book clubs this month – trust me, that’s not a bad thing.
Speaking of book clubs, Cormac McCarthy’s latest, The Road, was put on Oprah’s Book Club list when it hit paperback last month. Apparently, he was on the show yesterday to plug it, so I’m hoping to find a streaming clip of his interview without having to register for the OBC website. Comment if you find one, and I’ll do the same.
You can hear Nick Hornby read Small Country on “This American Life” with Ira Glass (I wrote about his storytelling tips last week). The Hornby section is at the 32:00 minute mark in the streaming feed.