Each month, we sit down with a Dublin bookclub to find out what reading delights they’ve been sampling. From those that have been going for 20 years, to those in their earliest beginnings, we’ve met bookclubs that are full of old friends, new acquaintances, colleagues, neighbours, and everyone in between. What they all have in common is a shared curiosity and a love of reading.
You might even be inspired to start your own …
Tell us a little about your Book Club
It began as a group of friends from Waterford who were all living in Dublin and has expanded to encompass friends from college, family members, and friends of new members, as well as now some friends living in the UK and the continent since it’s taking place over Zoom. We decided to cover short stories as opposed to full length books. We aimed to meet regularly and be consistent in our meets. The short story works well for us as, even if someone has had a very busy week, they can generally find the time to read the material and have points to contribute.
Ordinarily, we’d meet for a few drinks (ideally in a booth or a corner couch in a classic Dublin public house) and have some literary chats about our chosen story. We’ve gone for a group Christmas meal and arranged quiz nights in members' houses from time to time too.
Have you a preferred theme or genre?
Any type of short story, mostly. We opt for stories from various eras and stories that come from various different parts of the world. We first worked off a ‘Top 10 Short Stories of the 21st Century’ list and have since tried different approaches like drawing from a hat to pair people up with a theme or concept (e.g. a member will be invited to choose a story with the theme of ‘revenge’, another person may have gotten ‘love’ or ‘despair’.) Recently, we’ve picked South America and people are invited to choose one story from a country on the continent and give a short talk on the country’s history and society if they have the time.
Is there a title that stands out amongst others?
Victory Lap by George Saunders fascinated us - both converts and newcomers
A book that changed your mind about something?
I don’t think the stories have been instructive or reformative in the sense of changing peoples’ minds, being more emotional than cognitive generally. There have been many profound stories that have reminded us of deep truths we already know but that become obscured, such as Cathedral by Raymond Carver, which was beautifully empathetic.
What was your most divisive / challenging title?
Patriotism by Yukio Mishima was probably both the most divisive and challenging, as a story about ritual suicide by disembowelment might be expected to be. The alien cultural context, the fierce zeal of the author and the text and the austere but elegant style were difficult and contentious, but universally fascinating.
What are you reading right now?
We’re finishing off our ‘South America series’ (Venezuela is remaining) and we’re going to move onto stories from Russia and then Africa.
Your recommended read?
Reunion by John Cheever. Concise at only 4 or 5 pages but explosive and a near perfect illustration of the power and the art of a short story when so brilliantly executed.