Skip to main content


April 29, 2009

Sean Dixon: The Book Club in Fiction & Reality

Posted by carol
Sean Dixon's The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal features a women's book club in Montreal. Today's guest blogger, Sean reveals what happened when he decided to give a friend's real-life reading group an early look at the novel.

I have a friend, an actress in LA, who is part of a book club comprised more or less entirely of fellow actresses. There are ten of them, just the same amount, coincidentally, as there are in the Lacuna Cabal Montreal Young Women's Book Club, if you include Runner's younger brother Neil but exclude the hexapod and two hangers-on who both happen to be male. I think that's right.

The members of the Lacuna Cabal are not themselves actresses but one of the ways in which they explore and otherwise get into the books they read is by performing favourite scenes with a level of commitment that would rival Robert DeNiro's.

What's an example, let's see...

The DaVinci Code includes a break-in to the Louvre, doesn't it? So, for example, the members of the LC might themselves attempt to break into a museum. They wouldn't travel to France, of course, but they might try to break into a museum in their home city of Montreal.

Not that the Lacuna Cabal would read The DaVinci Code. Too pulpy. Too thrillerish. They've got higher brows than that. To them, there's got to be a more compelling reason to keep a reader's attention than someone's life being in danger, you know?

Still, the members of the LC, though not themselves actresses, are like actresses.

So it was my thinking --- given I had a friend, an actress, who was a member of an LA book club --- that I might interest this same book club in these characters and this book. They might appreciate an advance look at the galley.

So I offered to send ten to my friend, a few months in advance of publication. And she enthusiastically agreed.

The books were sent and a session was scheduled for February 14th, providing plenty of time for the membership to ruminate over plot, character, themes.

I heartily anticipated the accolades that would arrive in my inbox on the 15th, the 16th, and for several days thereafter, perhaps all the way to the official pub date on April 28th, and beyond, for the rest of my life.

I felt confident. I trod upon clouds. When the day finally came, I brought home flowers. Went out for a nice dinner with my wife. She was maybe a little preoccupied with work problems, I can’t remember, I was myself somewhat preoccupied with thoughts of the approaching tsunami of acolada.

I didn't hear anything though. Not that night. Well, weren't they three hours behind me? I hadn't expected to hear anything until the next day. Go back three paragraphs and there's proof.

But I didn't hear anything the next day either.

Or the day after.

I looked at my friend's Facebook page. She'd written something about how much she loved David Sedaris.

Does David Sedaris even write fiction? Doesn't he just take stuff from his own life?

The point is. I began to lose confidence.

David Sedaris. If I had worked as an elf at Macy's, funny things would probably have happened to me too.

Several weeks went by.

Some time in the middle of March, I sent an email to my friend.

Was it a disaster?

Didn't hear back.

La la la.

I began to think that, with my little book about a book club, I had perhaps shown too much disrespect to the institution of the book club.

Maybe my characters were too unpleasant? Too flawed? President Missy Bean too much of a bitch? I thought I had explained that. Cross-dressing Aline too pitiful? But she ends up a hero of the book! Runner too foul-mouthed? Emmy too mopey? Romy too self-destructive? My narrators unable to keep their facts straight?

Upon further reflection, I came to suppose I wasn't very respectful to the institution of the book club in America. Or really in Canada, but let's call it America in celebration of the U.S. edition that came out yesterday.

Finally, I could not take it anymore and composed the following note:

Dear X,

I'm sorry if I embarrassed you in front of your book club.

I really thought you knew what you were getting into, since you know me and everything.

Be that as it may, it makes a great story that my story of a Montreal young women's book club was rejected by an LA young women's book club. People just love to hear it at all my readings in New York and Philly and Chicago and Miami, etcetera...

I just wish I knew a few of the facts so I could improve the quality of my storytelling a little bit, and add a little bit of verisimilitude, in the manner of, say, David Sedaris...

Yours, S

Later that day, my friend wrote me back.

Oh My God no! I am so sorry...

She said they had loved the book. No, that wasn't quite true. Some of them didn't like the sex in the book (Me thinking, Is there sex in the book?) but most of them loved the book.

And she further explained that she'd come down with bronchitis and was going through a rotten break-up.

I checked her Facebook page again. The comment about David Sedaris was still there. There were also some lines from a song about a break-up.

I felt bad.

Turns out David Sedaris does write fiction too. Short stories. I've read a few. They're funny. But the members of the Lacuna Cabal would never read David Sedaris. They've got higher brows than that. In The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal, they read the Epic of Gilgamesh in its original Cuneiform. I'll bet David Sedaris has never written about anything like that. No. And you know why?

Because something like that has never happened to him.

But it happened to the Lacuna Cabal Montreal Young Women's Book Club.

---Sean Dixon