August 22, 2012
The Vicious Circle forgives us our trespasses
Last Thursday, our book club hit what was either an all time low or an all time high, depending on your point of view. If you think it was the former, we will assure you that it wasn’t our fault, but that we’d elected to barely discuss the book at all (a rare act of defiance for the Vicious Circle, which is constitutionally obliged to discuss the book in question at least half as much as it discusses Russell Smith at every meeting) simply because the book was unremarkable. Not in the same way that Wayne Johnston’s Human Amusement was unremarkable, so bizarrely unremarkable that it blew one’s mind with its sheer uninterestingness; how could any book be so thoroughly boring (though to be fair, she of us who writes the blog post recaps felt this most among us, hence the lack of a blog post recap)?
No, instead the book (which was Trespass by Rose Tremain, her follow-up to the Orange Prize-winning The Road Home [which is a book, it has been reported, that gives Orange Prizes a bad name]) was mind-dumbingly uninteresting. We’ve had a conversation many times inside the Vicious Circle in which one of us makes disparaging remarks about the awfulness of genre-fiction–that it’s not the genre, but the awfulness that troubles. And another of us always points out that literary fiction also has its fair share of crappy books, books that exist solely to meet the lit-fic formula, to win orange prizes, and which actually have no souls of their own. And here was one.
Trespass was stupid, those of us who’d finished shrugged and said it was all right, but that her characters weren’t really people, that elements of the text were preposterous, that we couldn’t understand how it had received that terrific review in The Observer. And then, really, there was nothing more to say, so we moved on to ol’ Russell, debating Caitlin Moran and saying goodbye to one of our own who is decamping to Mexico in the coming days! Though we were saying goodbye via cake, which helped. And it was weird, because we’ve been a book club for almost 2.5 years and the time has flown by, and we’ve had the perfect dynamic, diversity, connection between our members. So we are very sad to see one of us (and she assures us that it wasn’t Human Amusements and Trespass that drove her to it).
We also decided that we had had enough of mediocre books and that maybe we’d all been a little too enthusiastic and uncritical when we planned our next two years of reading about a year ago. So we threw out the list and started anew. No more middling CanLit, no more books chosen because they’d been sitting on our shelves for years and a book club pick would make us pick it up finally. We decided to be more deliberate in our choices, to pick books that are either mostly likely good or that will foster good conversation.
So that we don’t have any more book-free conversations at our meetings in the future. Not that we mind so much when we do. Because even with Trespass and also without it, ours was a very splendid evenings.