Non-Required Reading with the St Kilda Bookclub

Ever wondered what our bookclub meetings are like? Here’s a recap of a recent meeting at our St Kilda shop.

This month’s bookclub title was The Dinner by Herman Koch. It’s an incredible translation into English from its original Dutch, both funny and disturbingly chilling. All of our groups loved and hated this book in about equal measure, sometimes at the same time; it was all very confusing.

Being our second-to-last meeting for the year, we had 9 months’ worth of shared reading history to draw on when we discussed this one. It reminded me a little of July’s title May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes, and some other members of the bestselling thriller, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, which we read back in April.

We also identified some similarities to Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap, and to one of the storylines in Season 2 of the US Showtime series, Homeland, then we got to talking about Heavenly Creatures, the 1994 film directed by Peter Jackson, starring Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey.

I won’t give away the bombshell that Koch drops right at the end of The Dinner, because it is very much worth reading - nicely short and quick to read, too.

What all of these tangential books, films, and television series seem to me to have in common is a tendency to manipulate where their audience stands in relation to its characters and to some pretty major (and some that start off as quite minor) ethical dilemmas. You might start out standing on one side of a moral line, or siding with one character or another, but by the middle of the novel (/film/episode), are you still standing in the same place? Has the line moved, or have you?

This kind of challenge is precisely what is so great about reading and viewing quality fiction – and what is so brilliant about having a forum like bookclub to really hear what others think, and to work out exactly what you found so delightful, funny, disturbing or problematic about a given text.

Each meeting, after our chat about the month’s book, we inevitably get to talking about other things we’ve been reading and watching over the past month, and that is the basis of the St Kilda Bookclub Non-required Reading collection.

Some highlights (and one low-light) this month included:

  • My Mother, My Father edited by Susan Wyndham.
  • Brokeback Mountain, both the short story by Annie Proulx and the film directed by Ang Lee. In my option, Lee’s film is one of the best ever adaptations from a book.
  • Happiness directed by Todd Solondz. One bookclub member fell asleep during this film and I only wish that I’d had the presence of mind to do the same when I watched it 10 years ago.
  • The Apartment by Greg Baxter, which is going straight onto my ‘to read’ list for summer!
  • Game of Thrones - which comes up just about every week… We can’t seem to help ourselves!
  • The zombie-apocalypse genre in general, and with reference to one of the decidedly more literary of apocalypse texts, The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
  • (What is it about zombies? What’s the appeal? We decided that it’s all about the breakdown of society, where we’ll find ourselves, what we’ll resort to. Pretty grim conversation for a Tuesday night, I know, but you never know where a chat about books is going to lead you, and that’s the point!)

    Amy Vuleta is the Assistant Manager at Readings St Kilda.