Let us now praise inappropriate books for a book group

Today, I re-read Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, a collection of fairy tales re-written to explicitly explore gender issues and sexuality. I re-read it because my newly fledged book group at work is reading it as their first pick. The Bloody Chamber was my pick. It was short. It was interesting. I just didn’t remember how interesting it was until the weird sex started happening.

Tomorrow is going to be a fun day.

I am currently a member of two book groups. The first is a group of women I didn’t know before last year. I got invited after spouting off about books at a dinner. This group keeps a running list of titles that we choose from at the end of every monthly meeting. We’re good at reaching consensus. Even if one of us doesn’t like the book pick, we end up giving a good effort at finishing it and then talking about it when we meet. Because we collectively choose books, no one bears the burden of choosing duds or getting psychoanalyzed for their picks.


Chen Bolan

The second group is made up of people I work with. We tried the democratic thing, but the book we voted on was too new for readily available, low-cost/no-cost copies. So, we went with a second choice. I picked The Bloody Chamber for the above mentioned reasons. Chiefly, I picked it because it was so short it wouldn’t be hard to read in a few weeks. But without the protection of voting, I worry that my group is going to judge me a bit based on the content of the book.

That said, I’m going to own up to choosing The Bloody Chamber. It deserves to be more widely read—and not just by my little book group. Because it was my second time through, I picked up on themes I missed the first time around. (The first time through, I was too enamored of women being the heroine or deciding they didn’t need rescuing after all.) Many of the stories revolve around the worth of a daughter, being comfortable in one’s own skin, and becoming a woman. The Bloody Chamber has become more relevant over time.

It’s going to be a little embarrassing to talk about some of this book’s content tomorrow. But to chicken out or apologize for the book would be to undercut it. It would also insult the intelligence of the book group. Everyone in the group is an adult. I don’t have to protect them from Angela Carter or any other potentially disturbing/shocking/upsetting/explicit books.

Besides, next month it’s someone else’s turn to be hoisted by their own bookmark.

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