Clearly the Twitter Book Club has been successful in the same way as #Fitter by Twitter has been. This was not really surprising considering the 140 character limits of the medium. It appeared quite difficult for even the glitterati of the Twitterati to make their book reports sufficiently succinct, let alone for wordy newcomers such as myself.
However I gained a lot from the books I read on the recommendations of those from Twitter and from my re-reading of “Great Expectations” as a direct consequence. I would have left it as a very enjoyable, mostly personal, experience except for a recent exchange between Elizabeth Farrelly of the SMH and Clementine Ford, a feminist who is active on Twitter. Ms Farrelly contended that there were “women’s books” and made some criticisms of that alleged genre, whereas Ms Ford took umbrage both at the concept there was such a genre but also more or less claimed that if there were such a genre it was better than any other.
Since my school days I have been conscious of the fact that females often approach books in a different way from the way that males do. This may seem an outrageous concept but when, at the age of 12, I was plucked from an all female education which had lead me to a selective all girls high school, and placed in a country central school, I was shocked at some of the ideas the boys had about literature. After I had realized girls did not have a monopoly of good sense I was able to appreciate some of their ideas. That experience made me, as an adult, passionately in favour of coeducation.
Having two children of each gender, all keen readers, I noticed similar differences in the way they approached beooks.
Now back to book clubs. It was probably rather foolish in retrospect, but the book club I spent some years with consisted of all female psychologists. We were all good friends. A couple of us decided to end our association with the club for the exact reason mentioned by Ms Farrelly. This was very difficult at the time and caused some problems. The books preferred by the majority were all by female writers of the same ilk preaching and unravelling issues regarding families and relationships from an exclusively female perspective. I tried to suggest other books, such as Romulus My Father by Raymond Gaita and Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. None of these excellent books were deemed satisfactory to the majority of the group. This has made me very wary of Book Clubs, yet the concept still seems great.
On the other hand the two books suggested on twitter were quite different, one by a woman and one by a man. They were read by people of different viewpoints.
In the end I found a great similarity in the themes, but not in the subjects or in the way the themes were presented. One of the books, Mr Pip, had me looking back at Great Expectations from perhaps a thirty or even forty year gap. It had been one of the most read books of my youth.
The books and the few 140 character comments have had me thinking. Since the early days of undergraduate psychology, I have believed there is no such thing as an absolute truth, even in factual matters. During my life I have come to an understanding that most people cannot be catagorised as good or evil. There is the good, the bad and also the indifferent in all of us in one way and another. I always felt this was a main message to be got from Great Expectations.
Perhaps I have been very slow in life, but reading these three books, on an electronic device and in the context of twitter I discovered yet another absolute had become diffused. Sometimes recognition of the good, the bad, the indifferent, the eccentric and the plain mad in people cannot be separated. They are porous or even perhaps amorphously combined.
I won’t go on with hows and whys, I just want to say it was a good experience for me.
Please recommend any book you have recently enjoyed reading. I for one would love to know and have the opportunity to read it although a book club per se on Twitter is probably impossible. Nonetheless this try has restored my faith in the possibility of of book clubs working as long as the people involved are different enough.