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Readers’ Group

by Jeff Phelps on September 18th, 2009

A readers’ group is a ruthless killing machine.

The readers’ group where I work gave its verdict on Box of Tricks this week. They’d had the book for about six weeks so there’d been plenty of time to absorb it and while there’s normally some gossip in the corridors of mirth about the book under consideration, this time there was none – or at least none in my hearing. The noisy members of the readers’ group clammed up when they saw me approaching. Their whispers fell to silence.

What were they plotting? Had they thrown Box of Tricks across the room in anger? They preferred to wait until Thursday lunch-time before saying anything. Torture.

Well, of course they were OK about it. They liked it, they said. The characters were vivid, the plot kept them interested. Maybe they were only saying that because I was sitting there. They didn’t want to hurt my artistic sensibilities. Probably they’d orchestrated their response beforehand in one of those focus groups. There might have been another meeting – to which I wasn’t invited – where they’d said what they really thought.

When does a book take on its proper identity? What do I care? They told me it was OK. That’s all that matters.

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