A few weeks ago, I quit the fantasy book club I had attended for several years. I didn’t especially want to, but I could not have done anything else.
What happened was this:
We had just finished discussing what to read next when, out of nowhere, the woman in whose house the book club met, said something like, “We all love you, Bruce, but I’m glad when we read something you don’t know. When you’ve taught a book or met the writer, it’s too much.”
I was relaxed, so this remark took me by surprise. I kept polite as the meeting ended, even smiling and joking as I left, but, the more I thought, the more the remark vexed me.
True, I have taught third year university courses in fantasy, and for several years attended conventions where I met a variety of writers. But I am not the only one who has met the writers we discussed, and I never brag about my experiences, or mention them to shut down the discussion. I only mention them out of enthusiasm, and because I think they add something to the discussion. Perhaps the woman felt inadequate because I am at least fifteen years older, but shifting the blame to me seems unfair – especially since she tends to dominate the discussion at each meeting.
However, what left me trapped was not the unfairness so much as the lack of alternatives. After that comment, I could either ignore it, making me feel loutishly insensitive, or else watch every word I said, censoring myself during what, after all, was my leisure time, and all because of something I didn’t consider a fault.
Even worse, continuing to attend meetings would mean accepting the hospitality of a woman who – her initial remark not withstanding – obviously held a grievance against me. The meeting location was unlikely to change, and, given her views of me, I would neither eat nor drink – nor even sit – in her house.
Later, waking in the night with the incident in my mind, I also realized that no one else at the meeting had objected to the remark. They might have been as unprepared as I was, but they possibly agreed with the remark. There was no way of finding out without endless discussion, and I would doubt the sincerity of any apologies.
Under these circumstances, I could see no reason for remaining. The next morning, I resigned, keeping quiet when the club organizer asked why I was leaving. I have thought since that I might be over-sensitive, and in some ways I regret leaving, but I didn’t have any other choice that I was willing to accept.