Women who bicker over books

Published: December 9, 2008 | Last Updated: December 9, 2008 By | 2 Replies Continue Reading

A recent article in the New York Times, Fought Over Any Good Books Lately?, by Joanne Kaufman recounted the story of a woman, named Jocelyn Bowie, who was invited to join a book club shortly after she moved back to Indiana. She had hoped she could find a sisterhood of women in the group with whom she could network.


When the women began bickering about their choice of books, she decided to defect. The article goes on to describe the acrimony that is rampant among the 4 to 5 million book groups across the U.S. (predominantly made up of women)—but explains how it isn’t just about the book. They disagree about "the rules" and refreshments, and butt heads over politics. I’m sure the recent polarizing election killed off more than a few groups.


I had a similarly disappointing experience in joining a short-lived writer’s group. Although we all loved writing, there weren’t enough ties to keep the group together and we dispersed as soon as we could, explaining it away as a summer hiatus. We were at different stages of our writing careers and at different phases of our lives—and our personalities just didn’t seem to click. One person was an incessant talker and another always came late, expecting us to rewind from the beginning. No one wanted to intercede, possibly alienating another member.

 

I found out that a shared love of writing doesn’t always cut it when it comes to maintaining a writer’s group—just as forming and maintaining female friendships are partly a matter of luck, too. When I interviewed more than 1200 women about their female friendships, a large number of them talked about how best friends just seem to "click." They described how it felt easy and comfortable to be together from the beginning, like slipping into a worn pair of jeans, and it didn’t take any work.


Friendship circles like book clubs and writers’ groups are more complicated than one-on-one friendships, perhaps, because there are more personalities added to the pot. Some of us are lucky to find groups that "click" while others have to try more than once—to find the right one.

 

You may also want to read The Book Group and the Bitch Fight, a blog post by my writer friend, Joanne Rendell, author of The Professors’ Wives’ Club.

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  1. Irene,

    Your post reminds me to make sure I let my friend who I’ll see tonight at my daughter’s holiday party know that I’m so glad she’s in my life. We’ve known each other since our daughters, now starting their own families, were in elementary school. We’d sit next to each other at school awards assemblies, high-fiving each other as our young girls received this or that award from the principal and remembered to look him in the eye. We were so proud.

    Although our daughers no longer hang together, we survived many years, both of our divorces, and lots of events in between. We sometimes don’t see each other for months on ned, yet neither one of us points the finger when we finally do get together. We’re just glad to see each other when we do. We understand time is precious. She’s one of the few friends I have like that.

    She’s also a great one to call when I want to do something outrageous, like go see roller derby. And often, it’s she who comes up with the nutty ideas.

    Thanks for reminding me how thankful I am today.

    All my best,
    Jackie

  2. I’m sure groups of women – like one-on-one friendships – have the “click” factor too. The group either works/clicks or it doesn’t. It’s just a shame that the NYT likes to dwell on those groups that don’t click, when it might be more interesting to explore why book groups are a distinctly female phenomenon, why women are by far the biggest readers, and why women get together to discuss books and men prefer to get together to watch sport!

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