Let me say: I really enjoyed this reading! Not just reading The Chocolate War; but also doing it as a group; and sharing these posts. And I also liked that it wasn’t tied to any particular new book promotion.
I also like that it confirmed my general distrust of “social reading.”
I like the social aspect of the aftermath of reading, obviously: I blog and I tweet and I talk about books all the time! I love that social aspect of reading — after I’m done.
And to be honest, as those who follow me on Twitter know, at times I did deliberately go onto Twitter and share a few in-the-moment thoughts.
But — and here’s the thing — my doing so was limited, and voluntary, and deliberate. It was also brief and rather limited and targeted; I had questions about the (non) appearance of women.
What made me think about social reading was the reader response I did with the book. Those responses reflect what I was thinking in the moment; what I knew based on what I had read, and what I had heard about the book.
Contrast that to the review itself: the review is, of course, more polished and thought out. It also leaves some things out. I decided not to explore certain things: Jerry’s family having a housekeeper; some of the teacher interactions that I think wouldn’t be allowed, even in a private school, in 2013. I didn’t dwell on some of the dated references, such as the hippies and the slang. When it came to balancing what I did and did not want to say in my review, these things weren’t significant enough for me to include. Now, for someone else? They may be. That’s OK — but I think if I’d been discussing “socially” as I read, these things would have been given greater significance in the moment than they warranted when looking at the book as a whole. In other words: it would have made mountains out of molehills. It would have changed what mattered.
It also could have changed how I thought about the book. The bit I talked about on Twitter had to do with the treatment of women; there was a mini conversation about the lack of women and eyeball rape and the like. As it was going on, I was thinking — how easy to go off on this tangent. How easy to make this a book about how women are viewed, or where viewed in 1974. That conversation could have overwhelmed and overshadowed what is powerful about The Chocolate War.
Then there is how I learned about things; being able to meet the book new-to-me. Or, yes, spoilers: how does social reading avoid spoilers? Even “just” a highlighted portion shifts the focus of my reading, to tell me that sentence has some type of meaning when it may not. I’d prefer not to have someone else’s priorities impact my reading.
So! I got a lot out of reading The Chocolate War: in terms of the book itself; in how I shape and reshape a review; and in how I like to interact with a text and other readers.
What about you? What are your thoughts on The Chocolate War? And on this read and blog a thon?