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The Book Club as Locker Room

 by Julie Hanus

Tags: Great writing, books and publishers, adages, intimacy, reading, book clubs, locker rooms, social networking, Adam Sternbergh, The Walrus,

reading as an intimate actNearly everyone knows the adage don’t kiss and tell—but what if we ought to apply the humble ethos to books? Writing for The Walrus, Adam Sternbergh argues that reading is a supremely intimate act, singular among the arts in the way that writers “hijack” our minds.

“Consider something even as silly and modest as this article,” Sternbergh writes. “I’m in your head right now. You have graciously allowed me to slip inside the private sphere of your consciousness, if only for a few minutes.  . . . This is very different from how we experience any other kind of art: No matter how much you enjoy a painting or revel in a symphony, there’s not a sense that the painter has hijacked your eyes or the composer has hijacked your ears.”

Thus, Sternbergh concludes: “So if reading—in this sense of pleasurable invasion—is a sexual experience, then the book club is the equivalent of a locker room. It’s the place where we gather to swap and compare notes after the fact, clumsily recounting the deed in a way that can’t help but undermine and cheapen the very experience we’ve gathered to celebrate.”

Is it a sign of how far solitude has fled from our socially-networked culture that reading a book, adoring it, and not trying to explain why to anyone . . . sounds like quite a clandestine thrill?

Source: The Walrus

Image by Stephen Brace, licensed under Creative Commons.