(Loitering at World Cup Coffee today.)
This morning my book group discussed Anne Enright’s The Gathering. I like my book group. We’re a feisty, fabulous fivesome, and we discuss our reading picks before veering into the usual usual. (Cosmetics — as in wearing them at all, pros, cons — was a hot topic for two minutes.)
I’m the only writer, so I approach the discussion from a different perspective than my friends. Just today, one of the fab-five commented, “I’m so glad you’re in the group; I like the book so much better now that we’ve discussed it!”
During our book chats, I’m reminded that we fictioneers read novels the way I imagine filmmakers watch movies — with detached analysis murmuring in the background.
Let’s take, for example, Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children, which got great reviews. Won’t go on my 2008 favorites list, yet I appreciated it. Craft-wise, I respected what Messud accomplished with her omniscient voice and unlikeable cast of characters. However, if I weren’t a writer, I would have given up on the book because, frankly, I didn’t enjoy the story. (The rest of the fab-five detested this novel.)
For me, enjoying a book and appreciating a book are separate acts. The appreciation comes from my inner-writer. So, for example, when one of the fab-five complained that she felt distanced from Messud’s characters, I responded from the appreciation space — pinpointing the omniscient voice as the likely culprit and explaining why I thought Messud’s novel couldn’t have been written in anything but omniscient voice. From the enjoyment space, I agreed with my friend: I could have cared less about the characters.