Two new book clubs that are all about the books. How novel!
This past winter, we told you about a club devoted to the extra-curricular reading and discussion of David Foster Wallace’s posthumous novel, The Pale King (and a few other related texts). A season-and-a-half later, we checked in with the founder of this group of DFW-lovers, Peter Merriman, to see what other book clubbing he might be up to.
As it turns out, Merriman has not one but two projects on the go for September: at Type Books on Queen West, he’ll lead a book club devoted to reading two books by American novelist Denis Johnson, and at Nicholas Hoare on Front Street he’ll guide readers through seven novels that take place in Los Angeles.
Merriman, who gets both his pay cheque and his jollies peddling books at Nicholas Hoare, is, in a not-at-all-show-off-y way, obviously one well-read dude. He doesn’t seem to be trying to impress his knowledge and love of books upon you when he talks, but these things are hard to miss. He also talks about book clubs with a kind of “this ain’t your grandma’s” feel—not that you won’t find grandmas in his clubs (the L.A-themed event at Nicholas Hoare is already attracting a demographically diverse crowd). It’s clear that Merriman takes the reading itself with a certain seriousness. “It’s not gossip and pinot grigio,” he says. “I want this to be about the books.” It’s great when people get along and start hanging out socially, which happened with the DFW club, but first and foremost, Merriman says, “I do feel very much responsible for the material.”
Last winter’s The Pale King (and friends) club was a real success. “I was amazed by the group that came out,” Merriman says. While the dozen-odd book club-goers came from a variety of academic backgrounds, they held in common a pre-existing love of DFW’s work. Most, Merriman says, had already braved the thousand-plus pages of Wallace’s masterpiece, Infinite Jest. It was also a crowd made up largely of people who live in the area around Type’s Queen West location—short-hand for young-ish, well-eduated, and hip (you might tag “-ster” onto that last adjective, depending on who you ask).
While DFW may be the ultimate heady/hip book-club bait, Denis Johnson may draw a similar crowd. In fact, Wallace himself placed Johnson’s 1983 novel Angels on a list of the most under-appreciated American novels written since 1960. So if school’s not your bag but whip-smart book talk is, get thee to your local bookstore and get clubbing.
Saturday Matinée: L.A. starts November 5 at Nicholas Hoare. The $156.09 fee includes the cost of the seven Los Angeles–related novels. You can register for that club by calling the bookstore. All Will Be Saved: Two Novels by Denis Johnson kicks off September 18 at Type Books. Its $50 fee covers the cost of the two Johnson novels, and you can register by visiting Type in person.