Sunday 9 January 2022

Book club highlights on a dreary morning...

It’s an overcast, mild-ish morning, which means the bit of snow we have is now turning to gray slush and melting away.  Thank goodness I have a steaming cup of chai (a new blend I’ve never tried before - Chai Americaine) and a homemade banana muffin to cheer me up!

My Volunteer Book Club met virtually yesterday morning to discuss Virginia Woolf’s essay, “A Room of One’s Own”, and while it was not the most popular selection we’ve read, it was by far not the least popular, and it had the added bonus of being short (but I think for some members it seemed long!).  In this essay, which is based on two papers she read to the Arts Society at Newnham and the Odtaa at Girton in October 1928, Woolf considered “women and fiction”.  First, she had to determine what that meant:  did it mean “women and what they are like”, “women and the fiction that they write” or “women and the fiction that is written about them”?  She discussed the portrayal of women in the fiction that men have written (always negative) and the socio-economic reasons why there are so few works of literature or poetry by women before the 18th century.  She then determined, through lengthy discourse, that women must have 300 pounds a year and a room of their own if they wish to write.  I’m really simplifying things, as one of my cats has decided that he must sit on my lap NOW, so he’s wedged between me and my lap-desk while I type with one hand (Oh, if only I had a room of my own!).  I had four book club members join the meeting, and only one of them gave up on it, but she blamed this partially on her need for new glasses (it was pretty slow to start off, so I'm actually surprised that so many people stuck with it).  One member loved it, and the other two enjoyed it, too.  We discussed Woolf’s life, or what little we knew of it, as well as her mental health issues.  I shared what I found online about Aphra Behn, a 17th century female poet, prose writer and playwright, to whom, according to Woolf, all female writers owe a huge debt, “for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds”.  I took particular interest in her comparison of Jane Austen’s writing and that of Emily and Charlotte Brontë, and especially her idea that, while Charlotte  Brontë was the more gifted writer, Austen achieved more with fewer sentences because she wrote not as men do, but rather, she shaped her sentences to fit her own use.  We discussed “women and fiction now”, how it has changed and what still needs to be done.  We compared it to various movements happening today, particularly recognition of Indigenous writers and Black writers.  This work, and these subjects, deserve much greater exploration and research, but Google Meet ended our session after one hour, so we were left wanting.  It was a good, yet all too brief , discussion, and I think that the one member who gave up on this will now finish reading it (she has new glasses, so she has no more excuses!)

Then, to fill in the rest of the week, I read (or reread?  I can’t remember if I’ve read it before) Stephen King’s novella, “Apt Pupil”, which came up in conversation during a visit with a friend over the holidays.  What is there to say about this?  It was a study of and an exploration into evil and the need to dominate.  I don’t want to read the other novellas in this collection, Different Seasons, at this time, so I'm returning it to the library, but I’ll check the used bookstores to see if I can find a copy so I can read them whenever I need something to fill a few days.

That’s all for today.  It looks like a great day to curl up with a cup of tea and read, which is what I will do once I get back from a short walk.

Bye for now… Julie

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