Monday, March 30, 2009


"Once, in a bright and distant time, 'a group of people joined together for some special purpose' would have sounded pleasant, even inviting. But now, in these days of violence, sin and convenience foods, 'club' meetings invariably lead to confusion between the aforementioned special interest groups and 'a heavy stick of wood used as a weapon.' And such confusion, of course, can only lead to tears, chaos, and unsightly bruises.

"How can such an indiscretion have occurred between definitions one and two in my trusty Thorndike-Barnhart Comprehensive Desk Dictionary (Volume One)? Such definition disasters are in fact sadly common. An idle flip through any dictionary (come on, admit it, we all do it) will reveal questions like 'why do we need twenty-three definitions for "in"?' 'What's the difference between a couch and a sofa?' 'How come the people at Webster's don't spell spray-cheez like the rest of the world?' 'What's the does the small-furry-mammal-bat have in common with the hit-the-little-flying-ball bat? In fact, wouldn't a baseball bat have more in common with, say, a club??' The plot thickens!!"

Who are those quotation marks quoting? Why, it's teenaged Rebecca at her most facetious (and innocent of the correct usage of the word "indiscretion"), writing the Club Section intro to her Grade 11 yearbook. How much has changed, and yet, how little.

Half a lifetime later (no, really: almost exact math) I still love clubs and still regard them with some degree of trepidation. Last night, I was a guest at a book-club meeting where they were discussing *Once*! An amazing opportunity, because no author is ever really content with any amount of feedback--when you say you "enjoyed the book" we're all actually dying to ask whether you thought the intentional misuse of the word "indiscretion" on page 45 came across as funny or obvious, and when you say you don't recall that bit, we are assume you are lying to cover the fact that you actually hated it, and the rest of the text besides. To me, an entire evening to discuss the successes and failures of my book seems just about right! A terrifying prospect, naturally, for the same reason.

In the end, it was terribly fun, and everyone was super-frlendly and funny and articulate and very good cooks (that's how all book clubs should screen members, I think). I was pleased that people were willing to talk about the book negatively without glancing over at me to see if I'd crumple to the floor in convulsions. No anti-*Once* rants, but not everyone loved every story, and I'm always interested in hearing about the whiches and whys of that.

And then there were lots of positive comments, too, which are always fun to bask in, and lots of intelligent questions and Dutch apple pie. When I said I was going to meet a book club, a few people wondered if that was a good thing for a writer to do, and so now my answer is *yes*! People who would bother to join a book club, and bother to read the book, are mainly astute readers, and it's always valuable to hear what they have to say. There is a weird feeling of course to being a stranger at what is basically a low-key dinner party, and being the focus of attention throughout from people you don't know well. Plus, one wants to be interesting and informative--they were giving me herbed brie, after all. I do hope my comments were useful; sometimes (well, mainly always, actually) I think *Once* is lot more interesting than I am. But us writers, we are flexible and fun, and so are readers, and I imagine that most who try this experiment with open minds and empty stomaches will will find the evening works out rather well.

I wonder what would happen if I--

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