An interview with Maurice LaJune Crouse of The Book Club, a reading group that has been in existence for more than 20 years.
How did your group get started? Originally, a group of friends got together because of a love of books, and they were frustrated at the time: There were no book discussion groups, that they knew of, in Columbia. They would get together and discuss books on their own and finally they decided to form a club. The membership has always been eight so that people can talk and everyone can get their opinions in.
What book are members reading this month? Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin. Margaret Atwood writes in an unusual way but still keeps the writing exciting. For example, in her books she usually mixes present situations with the future and [she does it] in a way that involves surrealism. She deals with science fiction, reality, past, present. There's usually a story in a story, and that really makes us excited when we have two stories going on at the same time.
It sounds as if Margaret Atwood is one of your club's favorite authors. Does your club have other favorites? Another one of our favorite authors is Octavia Butler, and she's an African-American female who writes science fiction. And our favorite book [by her] was Parable of the Sower. In fact, it took us more than one meeting to completely finish the discussion. It's written in the future, and in the future the people in America - many of the people - are living in walled compounds trying to maintain an idealistic life, trying to protect themselves from drug users who are taking a designer drug that causes the user to set fires. ... We like that book because many of her predictions are occurring as we speak. Gated communities are going up ... , and designer drugs are being produced. The U.S., in her predictions of the future, will be a completely different place brought on mainly by the drug culture.
Does your group have a set way to run meetings? We always have a facilitator who researches the author and the book, which sort of helps us understand the book better. ... And what started out as light refreshments for each meeting has turned into lavish meals. We take pride in entertaining each other in the comfort of our homes. What started out as simple book discussions has evolved into lifelong friendships because when you meet with people once a month, you really get to know them.