Its books may inspire throwing a domino on to buy them and using Lamaze techniques to get through them, but celebrating the masochistic tendencies of the bookworm is part of the Bad Book Club’s charm. Plumbing the shallows of capsized plots and silicone characters, the BBC is open to anyone looking for some intellectual R&R.
This past September, 29-year-old Mount Pleasant resident Anna Roberge and Denman Anderson, a 26-year-old actor living near Union Station, were scoping out the sale books at Olsson’s Books and Records in Bethesda when Anderson suggested they each buy a crappy book and regale the other with its sheer awfulness. Roberge thought they should take the idea further and start a club. One post on a Yahoo Groups message board later, the BBC had drawn 15 members. At its first meeting, in October, the gang discussed V.C. Andrews’ My Sweet Audrina, an eerie and unintentionally kitschy tale of a young girl living in the shadow of her dead sister.
Lucky attendees of the meeting were treated to doll-shaped cucumber sandwiches prepared by Roberge. “I like doing something with the theme of the book,” Roberge says, explaining that the sandwiches were a reference to the tea parties in Andrews’ novel. Roberge also used the sandwiches to correct one of the injustices perpetrated against the narrator of the novel, whose male dolls were confiscated by her wicked relatives. “We had little male dolls, and little female dolls—though there were more female dolls then male dolls,” she laughs.
Each of the present clubbers was already acquainted with Roberge or Anderson upon joining, but the group stresses its openness to new members. “We’re like a religion,” observes Anderson. “We’re open to anyone.” And, he promises, “you don’t have to read the book.”
For the club’s November meeting, the BBC—which meets just once a month because, in the words of Arlington resident Matt Bidwell, “the books aren’t worth the time”—gathered at Soho Tea and Coffee on P Street NW to scrutinize Paul Kafka Gibbons’ Dupont Circle, which recounts a gay couple’s struggle to get married. Conforming to traditional book-club mores, members zoomed in on the book’s tone, voice, and characters, lambasting the work for its failure to describe anything beyond a society of eccentric rich folks. Summarizing the group’s cheery displeasure with Gibbons’ aloof storytelling, Bidwell quips, “Some people are afraid of commitment; some writers are afraid of developing their characters.”
Many wisecracks and two hours later, consensus is reached: Yep, Dupont Circle sure is a bad book. So why not join a club that reads good books, even great ones? Members of the BBC remain impervious to skepticism. For them, reading tripe is still better than watching television. And then there’s the subversive pleasure in giving the low its due.
“When you’re reading V.C. Andrews and deconstructing it,” explains 23-year-old North Bethesda resident Dan Byerly, “you’re looking at a genre that has never been deconstructed…and when you do it, it’s a little fun.”—Christopher Byrd
Join the club at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/badbookclub.