Today we welcome Wilma.
In the beginning…..
Myself – Wilma – and Carmela launched Whiteinch Book Group in November 1997 as part of a National Libraries Week (lots of optimism back then). We were the first Glasgow Libraries Book Discussion group and possibly the first in Glasgow itself and were greatly helped by Glasgow author Chris Dolan who was a very supportive and immensely enthusiastic promoter of our new group. I can’t recall how many turned up on the first night but we certainly had to split into three fairly large groups to ensure the evening was manageable.
We did the usual variety of activities, which you’ll all be familiar with now, but which felt new and exciting at the time…choose three books from the shelves and tell us what attracted you to them…what would you like to be seen reading on the underground (how does this work with the Kindle/ I Pad? Is the medium the thing now?)…Do you read in the bath (well not the Kindle / I Pad?) Chris was brilliant that evening and started the discussion off the way we hoped our discussions would continue by asking how many people had read Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – come on you know you did! Actually I hadn’t – missing bestellers, story of my life, anyway Chris proceeded to demolish it – the worst novel he’d ever read and as they say a spirited discussion ensued and has been going ever since. In those early years, pre-Aye Write!, Carmela and I organised author visits – Bernard MacLaverty at the publication of Grace Notes and at the time a relatively unknown Ian Rankin who had just published Black and Blue. The group also welcomed a couple of fledgling authors, Alma Fritchley being one, as publishers and new authors were keen to try out their reading and Q & A sessions with real-life readers.
So Whiteinch Book Discussion Group has been meeting every last Thursday of the month September to June since November 1997. By last night I reckoned that those of us like Jean and Mairi who’ve been reading with us since the beginning have read and discussed over 250 titles which if you took the average book to be around 300 pages (please, please 600 pages over the summer break only) amounts to around 28,500,000 words, not counting introductions, forwards, prefaces, publisher’s blurbs, print-offs, newspapers articles followed by at least twelve people discussing the books for two hours – I’ll leave you to work this out – suffice to say we’re never short of a word or ten to say in Glasgow. And who have these keen word people been over the years? Men, women, young, old and nursing babies. There has only been one book which absolutely no-one managed to finish despite having the most fabulous title Marzipan and Moonlight. The title of the Worst Book EVER Read so far has gone to Wives of the Fishermen and most definitely the book which if pressed I would say was the best has been The Reader by Bernard Schlink. Devoured most pleasantly one Saturday afternoon, read again before discussing at the group and then going with all the group to see it performed at the Tron and to support Chris Dolan who wrote the stage play and who had so magnificently supported us in the beginning. Full circle.
Last night? Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader. It’s up there…