Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Community of Literary Judgement

Dear readers, Book Club (or The Circle of Literary Judgement, if you're about addressing our organization by the official nomenclature) has arrived.

Check this out:

That's right, on Saturday, March 7, 2009, the Globe & Mail, Canada's leading newspaper, officially endorsed The Circle of Literary Judgement as Canada's coolest and most amazing book club.* More or less. I'll let you be the judge (after all, we're all about judging!).

So, who are we? Basically, Book Club represents a cross-section of the Canadian Community - provided you accept said "community" to be one of twentysomething, upper-middle-class, white, university-educated, semi-entitled, environmentally-friendly students and young professionals from Vancouver. Theo, Kurt, Stewart, Phil, Michelle, and John make up Book Club (Phil and Stew aren't pictured, which is why our "Album Cover" isn't as good looking as it could be). For the record, we're always taking applications from prospective members.

Peter, the Globe reporter who interviewed Michelle and I (the co-founders of "CLJ," as Peter calls it), responded to our submission to the paper's Clubland section, which profiles a book club from somewhere - anywhere - in Canada, with the line, "is this real? I hope this is real." Yes, we are. And, yes, we really are a bit ridiculous and revolutionary. Let me explain.

Many book clubs out there actually discuss literature (some, truly, do not, which is why they don't have staying power). Many do so exclusively and pretentiously. Many do so while drinking wine and eating thematic food. Few do so while drinking wine, eating delightfully and creatively themed-food and competing for a trophy and the title of "the Judgiest Literary Judger." And few groups require haikus, faux-pretentious signatures and an interpretive dance as part of their application process. Point being, the club was founded (see article) on Michelle's goal of creating a book club that revolted against revolting literary pretentiousness. We are playfully serious and smart as whips and, most importantly, we don't take ourselves too seriously. Seriously. We buy into a community where laughter is paramount and we believe that the first thing you must know about being smart is that you're stupid.

This one time, at Book Club, Kurt, Godfrey and Elise (a member we had to excommunicate for her philosophical commitments) put on a skit about a scene from Milan Kundera's Immortality. Kurt played the role of "the tire" that is stabbed by Professor Avenarius. He hissed. It was magical. It was Oscar worthy.

Twentysomethings. Recent findings show that we/you do not read "books." Sure, we read a lot. We read websites and blogs and text messages. And with every lol we are slowly destroying the English language. Book clubs are a great way to incorporate literature into your daily/weekly/monthly dose of words - not ones that are shouted by pundits or American Idols or Jack Bauer, but words that are written. So, start a book club today. Not only will you save the English language and the written word, but you will also build and/or expand your community!

Here's how book clubs build community:

Discussion, sharing ideas: books inspire ideas from everywhere. Presenting ideas, discussing them and reflecting on concepts as a group creates a shared understanding. People will rarely agree on everything all the time, and they shouldn't; however, arguments and debates test our intellectual mettle as well as inspire people in the room. For example, when someone, say, Stewart Burgess, makes a point about architecture that reveals an un-discussed and wholly unique aspect of character development in Ender's Game, well, that's just the stuff that makes one smile and say hmmmm. And when Theo Lamb slyly pipes up with an "I disagree" and throws down a "and it's not just because I'm a dramatic red-head!" to drive her point home, well, it's just a beautiful thing that gets everyone's ire up in just the right way. And then there's Phil, who argues that video games played here in Canada are controlling robot soldiers in the Middle East. Like I said, seriously...

delicious food + delicious people + stimulating conversation + tasty drink = healthy and engaged community. It's an easy recipe/equation.

sitting in circles - with no top and no bottom, no head and no foot - makes everybody feel included and equal. Just like Stalin would've wanted it. Wait...that's not right, is it?

there are a litany and a bevy and a myriad and a buttload of studies out there that prove the connection between laughter, health, wellness, creativity, and sex appeal. When you combine all of the above things laughter will undoubtedly ensue. And the best kind of laughter, too, belly laughter - the kind that is contagious and amazing and makes your club/team/community the stuff of legend - mostly because the neighbours will probably ask you to keep it down.

For your information, The Circle of Literary Judgement is taking applications for new members. Because, well, we're all about building community. Especially in litearary ways!


*may not have actually "endorsed" us or would go on record as saying that we are the "most" cool and amazing, although the reporter was really, really excited to talk to us.


Michelle Burtnyk said...

For all of you bookies out there (who you bookin' at?), I'd recommend having a look through this very interesting site that explores the relationship between readers and books.

Topics and links are not limited to:

- a large scale research study exploring why/how people come together to share reading
-the effect of mass reading events (ie, Canada reads, or One Book, One Chicago) on communities and community engagement
-online book swapping sites that promote both community and sustainability
-the differential experience of reading online as opposed to in print: how does this change the experience?

Here's the link:

"Let us read and let us dance - two amusements that will never do any harm to the world."

Kurt Heinrich said...

This is a great article John. Keep up the good work.