Today's guest post on the importance of literary circles like book clubs comes from debut author Elizabeth Percer, whose literary coming-of-age novel AN UNCOMMON EDUCATION follows shy, introspective Naomi Feinstein from her lonely childhood outside of Boston to her days at Wellesley College as a member of the underground Shakespeare Society. Hailed as “an intense debut” by Kirkus Reviews and described as "eloquent, haunting and exquisitely written" by Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You, Percer’s new novel offers the perfect excuse to get together with your book club for a literary discussion.
The other day, a friend of mine wondered aloud about the lives of the Brontë sisters—those three, brilliant young women living on the outskirts of nineteenth century society and penning some of the most beloved novels ever written in the English language. It struck us both as remarkable that the intimacy with which these sisters lived and worked is not a subject of ongoing astonishment. Here we are in 2012, where keeping up with the Kardashians is a regular source of fascination, yet we rarely give pause to this extraordinarily fruitful literary circle - or so many others like it: Poe and Hawthorne; Emerson and Thoreau and Longfellow (not to mention Dickinson and Alcott) exchanging ideas in the suburbs of Massachusetts; Stein and Hemingway in Paris in the aftermath of World War I. In this information-hungry world, we seem to occasionally forget the creative power of forging literary circles that allow for questions just as much as answers.
It's easy to skip book club, I know. You've got a kid/dog/spouse at home after a long day at work/school/job hunting and all you want to do is put on your slippers and curl up in front of the TV. But the next time you hesitate before reading that chapter or heading out the door to book club, think of that part of you who is starved for the lack of sharing of her literary enthusiasms, the one who has far more to offer the world than the fulfillment of her duties. Let her play a little. Every now and then, take her out for the night and let her get lost in a book or a friendship or both.
In honor of Charlotte Brontë's 196th birthday last month, let your own wild intellect out on the moor with a few good friends this spring. I promise you: She will thank you for the fresh air and exercise.