book club questions

In ALL, BOOK PUBLISHING by Stephanie Klein11 Comments

Moose cover

Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp
In chapter seven, when the girls are dressing up Daniel for the pageant, Stephanie admits, “I wanted his hips. Ironically, it’s what I thought of when I thought of feminine: narrow.” In fact, throughout the book, Stephanie describes fat in terms of both masculinity and femininity. She also correlates fat with sexuality and thin with “ladylike” manners. “Thin, petite, small, and narrow—all the things we were not—were feminine. Breasts that made blouses buckle were sexual.” Do you agree with her estimations? Do you think her opinion changed once she became a mother? How is female fat different from male fat? Do you believe fat is a feminist issue?

Why do you believe Stephanie titled chapter eleven American Pie? What elements of Don McLean’s epic song “American Pie” can you find within the text?

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Reader guides: I don’t know if I’m for or against them. I think the beauty of art is taking from it what we need at the time. It definitely does become about us, even when it’s someone else’s story. Admittedly, a reader/book club guide gets you thinking about, and discussing, things you might otherwise have missed, but they also sometimes push you down a path, shaping how you feel about the book. And that’s fucking annoying. Not the end of the world I guess. It’s akin to the waiter approaching your table, before you’ve even tasted your food, and asking how everything is. Or worse, asking if you’d like fresh cracked pepper on your food, before you’ve even tasted it. How would I know? Give me a chance to form an opinion before you go willynilly flashing about town with an obelisk-like pepper shooter.

Sometimes if I’m reading a book with a reader’s guide in the back, I’ll peek at the questions, but I’ll read too far down and spoil some surprising plot twist for myself. I can’t help but chat a little. Sometimes I’ll then fan through the unread pages looking for names. Did this guy I’m reading about now make the damn cut? Is he going to be in the story later? Do I need this information, or can I skip ahead? For such a relaxing pastime, I’m quite the anxious little reader.

Comments

  1. I'd rather have insightful critical essays at the back of the book instead of trite shallow reader's guide questions. They never seem to do much than glance at the surface of the text, focus on one phrase or title, and then off to the next topic. It's the same reason I don't do book clubs. It's like a sublime meal, I want to bite into the meat of a text and chew it for a bit and savor it before I move on to the next bite.

  2. I would much rather be allowed to explore the book in my own way. I don't want some Pre-Approved-Dumbed-Down-High-School-Reading-Level guide telling me what messages and themes I should be taking away from the book. What is the point of reading if we don't use it as an exercise to force ourselves to think critically and originally about something?

  3. Out of curiosity, what made you decide to include a Reader's Guide? (Or "allow it to be included" is probably more accurate.)

    I loathe them personally, but maybe there's some author side bit of knowledge of which I am (blissfully) unaware.

  4. As someone who is (relatively) new in town and is joining book clubs to meet folks, I have to defend the book club questions. They are what the old knot game was at camp. An icebreaker. A freeway with on ramps, detours, and u-turns; as opposed to a train that just deposits you from one location to another. It can be a flashlight in the dark or a little fire to toast your marshmallows by.

    And like anything you read, it should guide a discussion and spark an idea rather than be the sole idea that you absorb from the book.

  5. Probably the main thing that has kept me from joining a book club is those inane questions at the back of the book. You only see them in "women's" books, and if you ask me, they are an insult to women.

  6. they are a waste of space in books. in fact, i've been so sad to think i have 40 pages left, only to realize 10 pages later that i've come to the end and there's a multitude of stupid questions.

  7. I agree; in general I find reading guides a bit condescending. I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent and well read person. I don't really need the themes of a book spelled out for me. Although I did make one notable exception – just once, I actually sought out a reader's guide – for Joyce's Ulysses, because… seriously, what the f*ck? It wasn't a reader's guide so much as a life preserver.

  8. Quite frankly, I've always been scared to death to join a book club because of what you just described. I always read the questions (well, not always… sometimes) and then think, "Holy shit. Did I seriously just miss that entire point/theme/correlation/metaphor?" and then I think I must be too dumb to join a book club because I should have picked up on all of the points made in the "book club guide" or whateverthefuck you call it in the back of the books. I am, presently, in kind-of a book club. We all read the same book. Some of us never finish said assignment (guilty: refused to read Pride and Prejudice. Actually read Moose instead). Most of the time the "discussion" consists of "That book was really good!" or "That book kinda sucked." or even better: "What was the point? I didn't get the point." Which makes me feel a little better. As always, Stephanie Klein, thank you. This post kinda made my afternoon. I think I'm gonna go read a book that I'm only responsible to myself for (Current read: Water for Elephants).

  9. I hate them. I'd rather have an added on piece by the author about why they wrote the book. IE: How the idea evolved etc.

  10. This is odd. I've never ever come across a 'readers questions' or guide or anything else at the back of a book. Maybe they don't include them for books here (South Africa). They would irritate me anyway. I'd like to make my own assumptions and assessments.

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