14 years of bookgroup and Dorothy Must Die

My bookgroup was mentioned briefly in my last post. I’ve written about my group before but I will give you a quick rundown on how we operate: We are a hotch-potch group that meets up monthly. We read widely. So much so that we never ever read the same book. Setting a specific title would makes us feel too much like we were about to sit for an exam. It would be an examination as to who had more insight, and if there is something we all proudly enjoy, it is the ability to read without the need for insight (not that insight doesn’t occur – it just is not a prerequisite). Instead, we read on themes. Just in the past year we have read on superheroes, dangerous ideas, birthright, flexing muscle, wink wink nudge nudge, Jesus and the list goes on. I don’t know of too many bookgroups that are structured the way that our group is structured. Which is a pity as I have been exposed to so many different authors and writing styles over the years due to this format. I know that some teen bookgroups run on this sort of premise, and there is the Rugby League Bookclub (this is all kinds of cool – more organised sports should do this!).

Gorgeous artwork by Onnie Cleary in the loo at Cafe Guilia

Similar to the burger menu item at Cafe Guilia (our current venue for bookgroup) which is simply described as “Burger – is good” so too does our bookgroup have an ethos of “Reading – is good” and we gather monthly to hear the adventures of each of our reading choices. We cheer those who find a strong link to the theme and we give a monthly award for the reader with the most tenuous link to the topic. Over the years, we have been known to have waitstaff join us, people at the table next to us throw in their suggestions as well as having a number of guest appearances from partners, children, friends and hanger-on-ers.

So in honour of my bookgroup’s 14th birthday, I thought I would list their various choices for our theme of “Fourteen”.

Kevin – keeps us all on track by emailing the group to remind us of the topic and that our meeting time is coming up. Kevin has his own personal challenge of finding a music connection for each theme as he plays guitar and writes his own music and lyrics. Bookgroup occasionally gets a performance if the month’s theme inspires Kevin to sing about his reading. Though his guitar did not accompany him this month, he did however cover a whole lot of songs with 14 in the title including songs from the following artists: Aphex Twin, Beastie Boys, Beck, Billy Bragg, Guns n Roses, Rufus Wainwright and The Vandals.

Kit – has also set her own personal challenge in that each theme must connect to food. For this month she found discussed the Food Republic blogpost on 14 food debates that she challenged us with. Some of the questions were: should humans eat meat, is food ism elitist?, should foie gras be banned, should people keep backyard chickens. These and more kept our conversation going for a while.

Iwona – mostly listens to audiobooks. For this month she listend to Ruby Wax’s 2014 publication Sane new world. Iwona wanted something humourous so she didn’t expect the mental health discussion. However did enjoy the book and there was humour. She did say she got a bit lost in the middle but the last section on exercises was boring though this may have been due to the audiobook form. The exercises may have been much easier to flick through in a paper format.

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 3.42.11 PMKiri – started the bookgroup 14 years ago when she first opened The Muse cafe in Summer Hill (which is no longer operating). Our group has now moved and we continue to meet at her current cafe – Cafe Guilia. Kiri read Jeanette Winterson’s Why be happy when you could be normal which was recommended by Elaine at a previous meeting. It is a fascinating memoir about being miserable having been adopted and brought up by a horrid mum. The Theme connection – Winterson loses her virginity loss at the age of 14.

Member who chooses to not have their name disclosed – read PopSugar’s post on 2014 Books to Movies that were released and then made a list of which movies he had seen and which of the books he had read and whether the movie reflected well upon the books. This member makes only guest appearances but particularly likes Guilia’s burgers so may be coming on a more regular basis than what he used to do 😀

Ben – is rereading Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series which is a trilogy of trilogies which falls somewhat short of 14 books but he did assure us every book has a page 14. Even our group with our “Most tenuous link to the topic” award didn’t really feel they could pay that one!

Elaine – (who was in absentia at this meeting) read Rupert Brooke’s 1914 set of five sentimental poems about death and war and compared them to the worst of the Gallipoli romancing.

Moi – I read Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige.

“Down is up. Up is down. Good is wicked. Wicked is Good. The times are changing. This is what Oz has come to.”

Teenager Amy Gumm’s trailer in Kansas is picked up during a tornado and lands in Oz. She discovers that Dorothy Gale returned to Oz many years ago and is a despotic, megalomaniacal dictator and that Glinda the witch is not really all that good. Amy is charged (by underground revolutionary witches, munchkins and monkeys) with stealing the lion’s courage, the tin man’s heart, the scarecrow’s brains and killing Dorothy. It’s quite fun and ties in with the original source material quite closely. Though the writing style felt a bit clunky (that might just be me and my avoidance of the first point-of-view), the book was a pageturner and despite the heft of the book (440-ish pages) I read it over 3 days. I was a tad annoyed that the way that Dorothy was demonised was by showing her in extra high heels, lots of make up and big boobs. Because – yeah – everyone knows the stereotype baddy woman is the glammed up with tits chick. I think leaving her looking like the sweetheart everyone is familiar with but with a menacing soul would have been much more powerful.  On the plus side, Dorothy’s glamour blue gingham wardrobe amused me. I really loved the way events unfolded at the end of the book and I will definitely be reading the rest of the books. This book is very much a fan appropriation of the original text. Fanfiction rears its gorgeous head once again.

A special mention for 2 of our members who were in absentia, Allyn and Fiona, neither of whom at the time of writing had sent in their “14” picks.


5 thoughts on “14 years of bookgroup and Dorothy Must Die

  1. I find this a very interesting concept for a book club, but I wonder how a meeting could be possibly finish?….or do you just end when Café Giulia closes?

  2. I find this concept of reading based on themes & then the discussion centers on how the choice jives with the theme in addition to plot/characterization/bookish themes.

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