I haven’t been reading a lot of books lately and I feel bad about that. I used to read all the time when I was younger, but there are so many things that I want and have to do that sitting down with a good book falls far on the rung of my to do list.
So, when Meghan Murphy of Paper Darts Magazine told me about Books & Bars and about Sheila Heti’s new book How Should a Person Be? I got really excited and loved the idea of joining a book club (especially if the books in question incite as much passion as Heti’s does). Despite how desperate I am for some new summer reading, bars are not places I often choose to spend time, especially for the sake of talking about books. The suggestion sort of went in one ear and out the other until I saw the Facebook Event page a few days before the meeting was to take place this past Tuesday. I decided to check it out without having read the book and really only skimming the internet for reviews and interviews; I read the prologue as well, which gave me a pretty good idea why people are so torn about it.
I want to state right now that this post is NOT a review of How Should a Person Be?. I’ll give a brief opinion later, but this post is about the Books & Bars event and my experience there.
To get right down to the nitty gritty of it all, I really enjoyed myself at Books & Bars but it certainly isn’t for everyone and it probably wouldn’t be for me 100% of the time. If you’re the kind of person who likes to discuss books at great length within an intimate setting where everyone can just debate and comment freely, than Books & Bars probably isn’t for you. It is very difficult to comprehensively create discourse about something in a bar atmosphere. Especially, when you have to raise your hand and speak into a microphone as if you are in the audience of the Phil Donahue Show.
That being said, you should go at least once anyway, because it really is an incredible experience. The talk-show feel and the free flowing of booze doesn’t hinder the intellectual rhetoric and how a person chooses to discuss a book can say a lot about them. There really is nothing like being in a room filled with people who immersed themselves in a work of art and feel extremely passionate enough to want to speak critically about it. There is yelling and loud disagreement. By the end of it, I was exhausted and mentally stimulated in a way that doesn’t happen very often for me. I felt a buzzing sense of satisfaction and I got to meet and talk with some new people.
As for the book, I can honestly say that, based on what little I read, I am not the target demographic for How Should a Person Be?, and that’s fine with me. Because of this, I was largely ambivalent about its subject matter, but I was able to look at it more objectively since I felt very little personal connection to it. I can see why readers both love it and hate it, even though I respectfully feel neither. It is another piece of art created by another artist and I’m glad that it exists and has gotten people talking.
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