I have never been part of a reading group - not yet. I suspect it would feel like the best moments of a college literature course - the intense discussions, the never before thought of ideas - only with couches and coffee, and wonderful friends. Some of you reading this have had the experience. So tell me: Would it be like that?
CS Lewis described something like it in his first acquaintance with his childhood friend, Arthur Greeves:
I found Arthur sitting up in bed. On the table beside him lay a copy of Myths Of the Norsemen.
"Do you like that?" said I.
"Do you like that?" said he.
Next moment the book was in our hands, our heads were bent close together, we were pointing, quoting, talking - soon almost shouting - discovering in a torrent of questions that we liked not only the same thing, but parts of it in the same way.
Maybe being in a reading group would feel like that. Or like the moment I discovered that Bonnie too had read Let the Great World Spin. Like me, she had found it to be a remarkably redemptive novel despite the odd thing author Collum McCann had done in showing us one luminous, unforgettable character for the first small bit of the story, then taking him away and for the rest of the book, dragging us through a world that bore some resemblance to our own, and a striking resemblance to hell. The thing McCann did was to show us the ripples one luminous life made in a hellish world. And Bonnie saw it.
I imagine a good reading group could change the world , don't you?
Lewis seemed to think so. In The Four Loves, he describes a friendship like the one he enjoyed with Arthur Greeves, that begins with "What? You too? I thought I was the only one." He continues:
But as long as each of these percipient persons dies without finding a kindred soul, nothing (I suspect) will come of it; art or sport or spiritual religion will not be born. It is when two such persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fumblings, or with what would seem to us amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision...And the world changes.
It makes me wonder who Martin Luther King Jr spoke to after he read the life story of Gandhi. Did some friend see what he saw in that book? Would life be the same if King had not found that friend?
Have any of you taken part in a reading group or are you in one now? Does it make a difference?
Please do share.