Monday, July 5, 2010

The Pessimists Book Club -- An Incendiary Beginning to a Beautiful Intellectual Endeavor

The Pessimists Book Club started somehow, like so many things do in the digital age, with a suggestion sent into space. If you're on Twitter and you feel passionately about a subject, (be it art, sport, magic or bunny wrestling), you will inevitably find new friends who think about the same things. Hence when Jennifer Dalton, William (Bill) Powhida, Zachary Cohen, MuseumNerd (Name classified) and TheButcherBlog (name also classified) all decided to read a book together we started a book club. The Pessimists Book Club.

I was tired and I think the rest of us were tired with all the positivity in the world. I loved this, this is "genius," everyone should read such and such. Twenty best under forty, most likely to rewrite the bible because their prose is so divine. I might be exaggerating, but that's me, a man of extremes.

We started by selecting a book, a lot of suggesting went on and then Powhida suggested The Ask by Sam Lipsyte which to my knowledge didn't have a single review. So we read the book and began feeling out the rules, quotes from the book went up, ideas and feelings, impressions on the text. We all agreed it was a fast read, the humor was amusing and the characters were thinly written, the subject matter slightly boring and the depiction of women pretty darned awful. Lipsyte did not write artists well, and he didn't seem to understand that his shock and absurdity was hurting his ability to get the story across clearly.

Finally this morning we had a conference call on Skype, after 30 minutes of figuring out how to do it, and began what I found to be a very interesting and intimate conversation about books, art, ideas and how absurd is too absurd. We spoke about Lipsyte and then French novelist, poet, and provocateur Michel Houellebecq. We talked about George Saunders and why his form of absurdity is successful, what Lipsyte might've done differently if he were Saunders. We brought up Philip K. Dick and bad landscape painting. Everyone spoke and ideas lead to other ideas. It was an extremely pleasurable experience.

Now we have set some sort of foundation. Reading is time consuming and solitary and sometimes you want to discuss a book. There are options out there for Book Clubs, has one for fiction and one for poetry that I might participate in at some point as well, but for now i have The Pessimists Book Club.

So as for a mission statement or a description of what we're doing. I guess simply stated we're a group of intellectuals interested in dialogue. In order to focus our dialogue we will be using works of fiction, though I am open to poetry and non-fiction as well, as a spring board for discussion and discourse.

You can find us on twitter and the hastags will be #pbc #pessimistsbookclub #thepessimistsbookclub #pessimistbookclub. Also at the website: Where we will fine tune our discussions so you can observe.


  1. Zach sent on this New Yorker piece about Houellbecq by John Updike.

  2. Enjoyed the reading the initial threads (including the frustrations of working out how to use WordPress for this purpose). And the Tweets, even if @Zacharycohen made a remark about my, um, tits. Felt left out when you went to Skype though. Thanks for the recap here. And it has inspired me to explore the idea--perhaps starting a similar online book club.