This is an open letter to the members of my book club and to others who belong to book clubs but do not read the book:
After our latest book club meeting on Thursday evening, I feel compelled to offer my thoughts on what it means to be a member of a book club.
In my opinion, a person who joins a book club has contracted to an unsigned but tacit agreement that he/she is willing to read and discuss one book a month.
While our club is a greatly enjoyed social club, it is primarily a book club.
There are certifiable excuses for not reading the book. However, most excuses are flimsy at best and get really old after a time. They are merely indicative of the low priority you give to book club. Your incredibly busy social life is not an excuse and frankly does not impress me. I may not have a life that is as busy, splendid or essential to the community as you think yours is, but I still have one and my time is just as precious and valuable to me as yours is to you.
Telling us you played video games instead of reading the book is an insult. Telling us that you always fall asleep after reading a few pages in bed reflects poor planning on your part. Telling us that you read another book instead of the book club book is a slap in the face. If you are only capable of reading one book a month, read the frickin' book club book first.
I repeat, there are valid excuses for not reading the book. However, M., while your life has been really difficult in the past couple of years, and it is understandable that you may not have the time, spirit or energy to read the book these days, you've always had some kind of excuse in the 17 years I've known you. In those same years, I was raising a child and had a full-time job.
You didn't even bother to buy the book? You didn't get it from the library quickly enough? You couldn't find anyone to borrow it from? You don't trust/know how to order from amazon.com used (but you use a computer at work all day long, V.)? Get real - all of you have more money than I do.
When you do not read the book, you may think it only impacts yourself, but this is not true. We dutiful readers are always left to carry the discussion. We are made to feel bad that we may reveal a plot twist or - heavens - the ending. In a book club as small as ours (because we are "too old and set in our ways" to invite new members), having members who aren't that faithful about attending either, we have had as few as two people who've actually read the book. Is this really the way to operate?
I was terribly hurt by the people who threw me under the bus on Thursday evening. J., we've been talking for months that something had to be done. To quote you, "It is disrespectful to other members to not read the book." You promised time after time that you were going to bring up the matter, and that B. N. was in agreement with us.
But on Thursday night you both left me twisting in the wind. Instead of the three of us providing a united front, you let the others think the idea for the discussion was all MINE. You let me take the heat, absorb the snotty remarks (K.: "I don't have to read the book if I don't want to!") and receive the silly rejoinders. (B.W., just because there was not much discussion about a particular book is no reason not to read the next book.)
Do you know the definition of being "thrown under the bus", also known as hypovehicularization? It means betraying a friend, sacrificing her, making her a scapegoat or a fall guy, letting her take the entire blame. Don't argue with me that I wasn't thrown under any bus. I felt the push on my back, have the broken bones and squashed organs, and still have the tire marks on me.
Regarding the phrase "to throw someone under the bus, The Word Detective says in his blog that the key to the phrase "really lies in the element of utter betrayal, the sudden, brutal sacrifice of a stalwart and loyal teammate for a temporary and often minor advantage."
I'm tired of being known as the Book Nazi just because I ask members to read the book. I'm taking your advice and finding a book club in which the members do just that.
Since I will be absent henceforth, you will now have two people who always read the book, and four who habitually don't. I understand that some members have now said they will "try harder" to read the book. Fat chance. That won't last long. You still refuse to take new members? The club - as a book club - is doomed.
Enjoy your social club, CRS, I'm all over it.