Toodle-oo, Book-Club Babes: I Want to Read Again!

Dear Liz, Emily, Meghan, Laura, Lauren, Heidi, Katie R., Katie H., Katie M. and Louisa:

It’s over. I will not be returning to book club.

I know what you’re thinking; you’re thinking I couldn’t hack it. You all work in book publishing, after all, while I’m at a magazine—a women’s magazine, no less. Month after month, when you realize I haven’t finished the required reading, you nod with those understanding smiles, as if to say, “Don’t worry, champ. You’ll get it next time.” Followed by a string of questions, presumably intended to make me feel more comfortable: Which boots are in right now? Why do all magazine people sign their e-mails “XXOO”? Does Uma Thurman prefer skim milk or soy?

Let me just say that if I ever bothered to answer, I was lying through my teeth. I wear Gap jeans and a pair of six-year-old Nikes seven days a week. I have Lever 2000 in my shower. My immersion in the world of all things glossy has nothing to do with why I’m leaving you.

I actually love reading. I really do. In fact, my apartment (to which I’ve never invited you—sorry) is full of books, not Louboutins. Novels piled on chairs and windowsills, Dorothy Parker on the nightstand and He’s Just Not That into You shoved under the bed, like porn. I adore books. Just not the ones you choose.

Not that I blame you for thinking so little of me. I know that it’s mostly my own fault. I’ve rarely made it through more than three chapters of our various selections. And during discussions, well, if we were a Little League team, I’d be that kid making clover chains in the outfield.

But before I go, and before you take Oprah’s name in vain again, let me leave you with some words of advice.

1.) I get it, girls: You work in books. But apparently a subscription to Publishers Weekly doesn’t equal taste. I mean, Life of freaking Pi? You’re joking. If I have to spend one more Sunday afternoon engaged in a 15-minute talk about a work of hip, ultra-modern fiction, which then disintegrates into a debate about whether the guys in your offices are cute-cute or “publishing” cute, I’m gonna go all Fahrenheit 451 on your collective ass.

To you, the former women’s-studies major (Free Press): You can’t move on, can you? You’re forever selecting books in which menstrual blood plays a pivotal role. (After enduring 62 pages of The Red Tent, I was actually a little jealous of its illiterate female characters.)

2.) Reading on a deadline is never fun, a fact I learned back in fourth-grade English class. I hadn’t read a single page of Jacob Have I Loved, and Mrs. Stanton could just smell it on me. “Miss Sullivan. What is it that Louise is looking for in Chapter 7?” she asked.

Why I answered “Hamburger,” the world will never know.

The point is, I don’t do well under pressure. As soon as I get a text message from one of you saying, “Reminder: Only five days left to finish The Kite Runner,” my buzz has officially been killed.

3.) If I’m going to spend any time reading for a group discussion, I want there to actually be a discussion. Last month, for example: The cute redhead (Warner Books) tried to mix it up a bit when she suggested we read Tom Perrotta’s Little Children. I actually finished that one. But the conversation rapidly devolved into what it was like to grow up in suburban New Jersey, and whether Reese Witherspoon was better in Election or Legally Blonde 2.

If I’d known that was going to happen, I would have stopped reading at page 167, when I wanted to.

4.) Why act like such walking publishing stereotypes? You are about more than the houses at which you work.

To the former ReganBooks editor: Stop talking as though you’re on an international cell-phone call—no one is eavesdropping, I swear. Though I will miss the way you deliver reviews of novels in the exact tone and manner of Judith Regan (apparently equal parts Schwarzenegger and Napoleon Dynamite), such as “Shihhhht. This is complete and utter shihhhht,” or the less common “Ahhhh luhhhhv it.” That made meetings almost bearable.

And to those of you who work in children’s books—I’m glad you love your jobs, but I really have no interest in reading the hottest thing in the young-adult category. Because of you, the previously benign phrase “It won the Newbery” now makes me want to shrivel up like grapes in a frat-house fridge.

5.) Speaking of which: College is over. Stop trying to impress each other. This means you, the Brooklyn hipster (William Morrow) with Ivy League Tourette’s syndrome, who feels the need to sputter the name of your alma mater every four to six seconds. As in, “Well, since you asked, I did sit beside Natalie Portman in bio. But people at Harvard are kind of above celebrity worship, you know?”

Or: “What was that? Would I like a drink? Oh, yes—thanks. For some reason, I thought you’d asked if I went to Harvard.”

Every one of us has a B.A. in English. Big whoop. I’m tired of my e-mail in-box getting clogged with messages about which predictable Joyce Carol Oates/Paul Auster/Michael Chabon/Siri Hustvedt book we should read next. Things got especially ugly back in May, when one of you suggested that, in honor of the summer, we ought to read “trash.” No one wanted to admit to liking lowbrow fiction. I almost died when the one editor sent out her list of recommendations—The J.A.P. Chronicles by Isabel Rose, In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner, Adored by Tilly Bagshawe—then followed it up 30 seconds later with another e-mail saying, “I just want everyone to know … the books that I suggested are trash. Not my personal preference.” Glad we got that cleared up.

And one last thing: Not every title needs to be abbreviated. Why must you say “The Amazing Adventures of K. and Clay” or “Hypocrite in a P.W.D.”? Would uttering those extra syllables really kill you?

Truth be told, I’ve been trying to leave you for the last six months. But until now, I could never get up the guts to actually do it. Instead, I’d just pray for scheduling conflicts (food poisoning—score!). Back in June, when I said that I couldn’t come because I had family in New York, that was only true on the most literal level—I do have a couple of second cousins in Scarsdale.

Call me a bitch. I simply don’t enjoy book club. And I’m not coming anymore, no matter what you say.

So. Drinks next week?

XXOO

Courtney