The Barbican Library
Peter Boxer: Library Reading Groupie
It’s more of a suspicion than fact – but when viewing myself through the eyes of those I work with I get the sense they think there must be something missing in my life – in fact I think if anything the reverse is true.

The City can be a fast moving place full of ambitious young people, focusing on income and material possessions – everyone’s got a self underneath that – but you don’t get near it – they’re not prepared to expose any weakness.

Coming from this environment entering the door into the reading group is such a contrast, it’s an open forum where the discussion is not connected to a business plan – it’s so much more worthwhile and can be liberating.

I’m in a very clear minority as a bloke. There are a number of young smart businesswomen in attendance. It could be a good hunting ground. I do wonder about their motivations for coming to the group – they probably live a thirty to forty minute commute from the library – some of them talk about reading a whole book over the weekend - what are you doing with your lives? – You can’t help wonder if they need some… stimulation.

Women can talk so much more easily about their feelings. They’re very articulate. It’s something you can’t always do as a man. Being in this group forces me to expose myself – it’s a little bit like counselling – you’re ostensibly talking about a piece of fiction but you are constantly relating the story back to your own life and anecdotes.

Very clean safe educated middle class.

So far the discussion has been fairly ‘nice’.

Last month we read a book with what I would call a medium level of bullying in it - normal violence – part of the rough and tumble of life. But for others in the group the violence was clearly horrifying.

I look forward to the group developing – it’s not in a pub and within the confines of a review of a book it’s quite hard to cut in and develop relationships with people.

Part of the satisfaction of a reading group would be to dance around an awkward discussion.

There’s one lady in particular, ‘Queenie’ I call her, who is quite dominant. She has already abandoned three reading groups because they didn’t measure up. On one occasion I was the only person who turned up to the group, I had a twenty minute chat and a couple of biscuits with the librarian, and then decided to go. As I was leaving, I came across Queenie who had arrived late. I told her I was going, but she was having none of it, and frogmarched me back in saying she hadn’t come all that way to talk to herself.

She’s forceful but I kind of like it.

I once suggested the group read a short story involving necrophilia but got the impression that the others weren’t quite ready for that just yet!
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