I figured I should write something about this. I figured that I should do this monthly feature because I have both the fortune and burden of being one of the moderators of an online-offline book club. I have mentioned this book club in passing in some of my past posts, so let’s do a little background.
The Filipino Group, or TFG, is a book club based on Goodreads. I know, the group’s name could mean anything. The Filipino Group for what? It could be a Filipino Group for stamp collectors, or dog-lovers, or lunatics that still manage to maintain lucidity online. I do not wish to explain, because the group creator and the past moderators, who are now inactive and who could be dead as of this moment, have that job to do. Besides, it’s a name that is indelibly stuck to our minds so changing it isn’t something that we are inclined to do, although it came up once or twice.
TFG has been around since 2007, I think. I only joined the group last year, and after a year of lounging on the threads, trolling, flooding, spamming, and ranting about books and reading along with bookish friends and joining the meet-ups, I was promoted as a moderator. I don’t know why; perhaps the other moderators are fond of me? Perhaps they saw something in me? Perhaps the potential to lead?
Really, when they informed me of this, I told them to put it off. Of course I’m not going to be too modest about this: I want to be a moderator of a group that I enjoy. It’s just that I think it’s too early. I mean, there are other members who are, I think, more qualified than I am in terms of seniority, management and organization skills, influence, number of books read, et al.
And let’s not dwell on that anymore. Being one of the moderators, I feel that I should maintain a regular feature of the books of the month that the group selects and discusses, online and offline. This is a good thing to do because the first ever face to face book discussion kicked off last January. Sure, there had been books of the month in the past, but these were not really discussed like how they do it in real life book clubs.
I know it’s February already, but it’s better late than never, so to speak. And besides, we haven’t met yet for February’s book of the month. I have no format in mind on how to do this thing. Besides, it would be tough to relate everything that happened during the book discussion. It would take a week’s worth of regular posts to do that. So I’ll just write anything in first person POV style. Here we go.
I didn’t bother to reread this book because I rely too much on my waning memory. And besides, 2666 ate up my January reading, and its effect is still rippling even up to this month (read: a reading backlog). So yes, I went to the book discussion without reviewing anything. My copy is somewhere else. Yes, it’s in Baguio City. Besides, people can still attend just for the sake of listening to the discussion. Actually, there is one member who has not read the book yet and who was quiet all throughout. After that, I decided the member is just really quiet.
I think this is a pretty successful attempt in bringing an online discussion to real life. It’s very spontaneous. No holds barred. I sometimes find myself trying my best to control my potty-mouth. Yes, I swear like a ghetto gangster, especially when I find myself groping for a precise word in a heated discussion.
So first, we were asked to introduce ourselves for the sake of the newbies. There are always newbies during meet-ups. A good thing, because that means the group is growing. Then we were asked what our impression of the book was in one word. There were some who answered in nouns, like warning, prophecy (or was it prophetic?). There were some who answered in adjectives, like boring, prophetic (or was it prophecy?). And there was me who answered with the word unsettling.
When I read this back in college, I found the world of 1984 detestable. I couldn’t imagine living in such a world where a single facial twitch could alter your life. I don’t like the idea where one is conditioned to like or hate something. I find it utterly horrible when people undermine your fears and use them to their advantage. So yes, the book dislodged me in my rather comfortable thinking that life is good, that I can write whatever for the campus paper, that I can do almost whatever I want.
And then each of the persons who have read the book were asked to pick a number, and this number corresponds to a question that one has to answer. On the spot. Sure, there are no wrong or right answers, but I really felt tense when it was my turn. Actually, some members felt that way, too. The question that I got was, thank goodness, one of the easier ones, which is about the symbols used in the novel. Good thing that the telescreens of Big Brother are omnipresent all throughout the novel that they stuck to my memory. But that’s not it; I had to explain how the symbols were used to achieve an effect.
Well, I couldn’t wring an answer out of my moldy brain. I think I was thinking that the telescreens were employed by Orwell to show how invasive totalitarianism is, but I didn’t say that. I don’t remember what I said, but there were other ideas that were pitched in. Good thing, because I didn’t need to finish answering my question. Actually, I think most of the questions were left unanswered because of the digressions, which is really mentally productive, if you don’t care about digressing and if you listen.
One interesting question that popped out is this: is the proletariat incapable of starting a revolution without the help of the middle-class? Does an outsider always have to stir the masses to get started? I had no opinion on it at that time, and I was more interested in the opinions of others. I was both listening to the arguments and thinking of the novel Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, because the question is very reminiscent of that novel.
This question was quite unresolved because the proponents of each side could not be swayed to switch teams. Not that we are forcing others to swallow our opinions. And besides, time was up. So I brought the question home and consulted it with one of my strong-headed and intellectual friends. Her answer is no. The masses would not start any revolution because they don’t care. They don’t care because they are poor. They have other things to think about, so why bother?
I am inclined to believe her. I should invite her to one of our book discussions.
1984 Book Discussion Details
- Date: January 28, 2012
- Place: Baang Cafe, Tomas Morato, Quezon City
- Time: 1 PM to 5 PM
- Attendees: Me, Aries (newbie), Jzhun, KD (discussion leader), Kristel, Kwesi, Maria, Atty. Monique, Po, Rollie, Tina, Miss Veronica
- Food I Ate: Country style ribs, a grape drink, nachos courtesy of KD, a pastry shared with Maria, some of Maria’s leftover adobo
(All photos courtesy of Kwesi.)