Women writers was the brief. Of course I wanted to just take The Secret History, but a book club riddled with classics, literature, and art scholars needs no converting. And as I already gushed over it when we were asked to bring our favourite book, I feel like taking the same book to more than one evening would be literary blasphemy.
(this is a recount of an evening a few weeks ago, so there are gaps)
B begun (as per usual) by declaring that although he chose the theme for this week, he doesn’t actually read many female authors, and his pitiful offerings only just scraped through. The shortest book ever (nonetheless, written by a female), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All be Feminists, a book that (like in Sweden) every being should read – because we all should be feminists, and this wee gem tells us why. The second book was actually authored by a man, but the artwork was by a female, and it was the art that counted, so all sins shall be forgiven (alas, I forget the name of the book and creators). After much teasing, B wholeheartedly acknowledged that he really must be reading more female authors. Let this be a cautionary tale to those who don’t.
Rebecca was the novel of choice for R and N. A book in which the namesake of the novel is dead and her name eclipses the lives of the characters so much that the main character remains unnamed.
O hauled out SPQR by Mary Beard, commenting on the notion of the expectations on female authors to be traditionally feminine. The erudite Cambridge Professor has been branded as being too ugly for television, an accusation that speaks to the core of why we should be reading more women authors: for their talent, genius, knowledge, wisdom, ideas, and humor. Not for their face.
Fuck the patriarchy.
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell were the two books of choice for R. Who appeared to convince everyone else to read them (as they sat entranced while he talked) but bemoaned to me on the way home that he feels like he never does an amazing book justice when he tries to talk about it. Sometimes you just can’t use words to explain the beauty of words.
I began with a muddled explanation of why everyone should read The Night Circus, feeling like an evangelist who is frantically trying to convert as many as possible. The best explanation I had for its beauty was that it is a feminine twin to the masculine Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. The evening concluded with a discussion on circular narratives and how I had to read Ali Smith’s How to be Both one and a half times in order to fully experience the complimentary narratives. And sometimes your entire reading of a book rests on what copy you happen to pick up.
Photo of the intelligent Mary Beard found here.