As if the promise of a video visit with yours truly were not enough to entice book clubs around the world to order truckloads of copies of Quiet Americans, here’s another incentive: author Robin Black’s magnificent and generous manifesto (as I am terming it): “A Book Club Guide to Discussing Short Story Collections.”
Black, author of the acclaimed If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This, explains:
I’m writing this because in the year and a half since my short story collection came out, I have had some amazing experiences discussing it with book clubs but I have also been told by many other groups that they find it hard to “tackle” story collections. First they run into a too-common reluctance to read those books at all, but then, for reasons inherent to the form, it’s also difficult to structure a conversation. There isn’t one set of characters to discuss. There isn’t one plot. There may even be stories that feel as though different authors wrote them. These things may seem obvious, but how to craft a cohesive discussion in spite of them, isn’t so clear.
And so I have been thinking about advice to give, strategies to suggest, mostly because I really do believe that although the approach may have to be be a little different, the experience of talking about stories is truly one of the great joys to be found among exchanges about literature.
Please go read Black’s suggested strategies. And then, please suggest that your club take up the cause of the short-story collection. You certainly don’t have to choose Quiet Americans. (But of course, I’ll be grateful if you do!)