Book club discussions where the author is present: is an honest discussion possible?

From Leadership Connextions
I have been to two book club meetings in the past where the author has been present and it has made me wonder: are book club discussions where the author is present as open and honest as they are when the author is not?

The two books and their authors were Kirsten Tranter author of The Legacy and Fiona McGregor author of Indelible Ink. Both books I thought were… ok. They weren't terrible, but then they weren't great either. Both books I had several distinct annoyances.

The Books

In The Legacy, my three biggest disappointments were these: the ending was extremely disappointing, the chapters all ended too suddenly and Tranter keep trying to build up suspense around certain people in a way that turned out to be very misleading.

In Indelible Ink, my three biggest disappointments were these: lack of plot, an unbelievable premise (a middle aged north shore Sydneysider becoming a tattoo addict) and so much dialogue about real estate that I was incredibly bored half way through the book.

The Book Club Discussion

The annoying thing was, that with the authors there I didn't feel as though I could completely honest about what I thought about their books.

In the book club discussion of The Legacy, I did ask Kirsten Tranter why she built up tension and suspense around certain characters and their actions that ultimately lead nowhere and she gave me an entirely unsatisfactory response to my question (which was specific to those two characters so I won't bore you with the details).

Although I asked the question, I didn't feel like I could express my views about how this aspect of the book didn't work for me. I also didn't feel like I could raise the other areas of the book that fell short for me.

Similarly, in the book club discussion for Indelible Ink I found myself again feeling too uncomfortable to express my true thoughts about the book in front of the author Fiona McGregor. I remember Fiona McGregor talking about the book as a book about middle class Australia. Now, (this may only have significant meaning for people from Sydney) – Indelible Ink was centred around a family who had a harbour front mansion near Mosman, views of the Harbour Bridge etc, which was worth $6.5 million Aussie dollars. Let me ask you – does this sound middle class to you? Because if that is middle class – then what the bleep is upper class? I really took issue to the fact that the characters were described as middle class rather than upper class BUT I did not feel as though I could express these feelings in the presence of the author.

What difference does it make if the author is there, and should it make a difference at all?

Objectively, I know that I could have expressed my views if I had really wanted to. Authors probably appreciate that fact that someone has thought about their books and had a certain reaction to it.

But when that reaction is negative one, and isn't necessarily going to be well argued (I'm only a reader after all – I know nothing about literature itself and can't necessarily form a wonderful argument to support my view), it is really hard to say what you really think.

This in turn as made me question whether other people in the room are holding back? What thoughts did they have about the book that they might not be sharing? Am I alone in feeling overall disappointed about the book or are there others like me in the room? Did we like the same things? Did we dislike the same things?

The problem is - I now no longer know if those discussions that took place were open and honest. It may be that everyone sounded positive about the books because everyone like me was too nervous about speaking their mind in front of the author. Maybe people even said some things that they didn't really think.

The point is, I can't know and that can't be a good thing when the point of a book club surely is to have an open and honest discussion about a common book.

I now avoid book clubs where the author is going to be present, because I would rather know that I can express my opinion, be it bad or good, without worrying about what the author thinks.


What do you think? Have you been to a book club with the author of the book being discussed? How was it different, if at all?

04.11.2011: This post receives a lot of traffic each week but rarely received a comment. Don't forget that its never too late to leave your thoughts, they are always welcome.

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  69. Công ty sản xuất giày nam đẹp cao cấp với giày công sở nam đẹp nhất và giày lười nam đẹp. Chuyên nhận thiết kế nội thất tại hà nội, đơn vị thiet ke noi that căn hộ chung cư vinhomes nguyễn trãi với nội thất tiện nghi chung cu vinhomes nguyen trai hiện đại trong thiết kế vinhomes nguyễn trãi đẳng cấp vinhomes nguyen trai là căn hộ cao cấp vinhome nguyen trai chất lượng hàng đầu vinhome nguyễn trãi gần gũi với thiên nhiên vincom nguyen trai trung tâm thương mại vincom nguyễn trãi

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