Thursday, October 06, 2005

A New Book Group?

Whenever I mention that I’m a member of a Book Group, the most common response is “oooh is it like that one on the telly, all arguments, affairs and intrigue?”.

Historically, I’ve laughed off such suggestions.

Then they turned out to be true.

Accordingly the Book Group sort of fizzled out amongst the various splits and fall outs and to be honest, with a busy summer, that was just fine by me.

Out of the blue, I hear from one of the former members about a new group he’s starting; small and select, meets in a pub, would I like to join them?

He’s great – an avid reader and a serious literati, a fantastic person to discuss books with. He’s one of the guys who dates back with me to the literature course we did at night school many moons ago, so amongst the book group crowd one of my oldest, though maybe not closest, friends.

He’s also one of the main people involved in some of the behind the scenes stuff that happened at the previous group.

Only I don’t know this through him and I don’t know if he knows I know.

Oh the dilemmas. Will it be ‘taking sides’ if I join his new group, even though the old one has never formally finished, just sort of faded away? Would a newer but closer friend be hurt and upset if she knew I was meeting up with him? Will it be awkward that I know stuff about the old friend that he probably doesn’t realise I know? Should I say anything? Should I give him the chance to put his side of things? Oh dear…dilemmas…

A second email - the book they’ve chosen for this week is Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things.

I love this book.

I give in to temptation and sneak into the pub to meet them to discuss it.

I try to stay reasonably poker faced when old friend tells me he’s separated from his wife of 20+ years. I can tell he’s trying to work out if news of marital unhappiness comes as a surprise to me. Fortunately, the others arrive back at the table with drinks from the bar at that point, the moment is broken, discussion moves on to the book. I start to relax.

And that’s when it happens, the only person at the table I don’t know of old, states that she believes that racial segregation is a perfectly natural and acceptable state of affairs.

F***! Where do you go with that? A couple of us try and argue it out as calmly as possible and I try to remind myself that having grown up white in South Africa she has a different starting point on all this, but even so…

I try so hard to hear what she’s saying and see her point of view, but by the end of the evening I’m fighting back the old Spitting Image tune.

Do I go back next time?


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