Reading Group Center

Samantha Irby is Bad at Book Club

We’ve long been fans of Samantha Irby from her blog bitches gotta eat, but we fell completely head over heels after reading her new book, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life. We would love to sit down and discuss each essay in this hilarious and heartbreaking collection with Irby, but it looks like she’s not a model book club member. Read on to discover the author’s signature take on the unique challenges of being in a book club.

 I’m always the one at book club who only read to, like, page 73 of the stupid book and has to act real interested in the artichoke dip Gail brought when it comes time for the discussion because I have no valid criticism to offer. And I try to be a good book clubber, I really do. At the end, when Diane is drunkenly trying to get her shoes back on and Jen is seething into her carrot sticks because she was the only one who didn’t like The Glass Castle and is taking that as some sort of personal affront from the group and the next book is debated by whatever stragglers remain to finish the dregs of wine and handful of sweating cheese cubes, I dutifully write the suggestions down and vow to order next month’s pick from Amazon (and by Amazon I definitely mean my local independent feminist bookstore) the next day.

And when it arrives in my mailbox I absolutely move it to the top of the mountainous to-be-read pile teetering precariously on my bedside table, promising myself that I will read at least the first chapter that night before I fall asleep. I’m going to read the whole thing by the end of the week and make impressive notes in the margins and highlight interesting passages and make a list of thoughtful, insightful questions to pose to the group of women who have heretofore never heard me utter a single word even though this is totally the fifth time my grocery store pita chips and hummus and I have crashed their little smarty party. But I just started watching Breaking Bad and Mallory showed up the other night with a pizza to gossip about this date she went on and this has been a grueling week at work and by the time I get home I’m already exhausted and can hardly muster the strength to it takes to scroll through my ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend’s Instagram feed for two hours, let alone process the nuances of this Pulitzer Prize–winning dictionary-thick novel from three years ago. And after the first week gets away from me, the second one is a slippery slope, because it feels like I have both a lot of time and no time at all, so who does it hurt if I go down a YouTube-cat-video rabbit hole just this once? By week three, I’m convinced that despite my apathy, some focused, type A part of my personality is gonna emerge from a long-dormant section of my brain and power me through my lunch break and work commute, only to find it swallowed by the inane chatter of strangers on the train and whatever is on TV in the breakroom (if it ever even existed in the first place). And by week four I’m thinking to myself, “You know, this is an old-ass book. I’m sure I can just read a bunch of reviews or whatever on the Internet!”

And now I’m here, on Susan’s doorstep, an un-creased copy of the book burning a guilt-hole in one hand and a lukewarm bottle of good rosé in the other, trying desperately to remember the details username Kevin42366 wrote in his lengthy Goodreads review that I can pass off as my own thoughts. Thank goodness Monica made those mushroom tarts I like and everyone is gushing over the pizzas Gabby made out of bagels even though it’s just tomato sauce and cheese, like who even cares, but I pile my paper plate real high with them anyway and nod solemnly along as Joanna’s voice cracks over the death everyone agrees they never saw coming in the second half of the book and offer a credible-sounding “Yeah! Me, too!” when Emily suggests that she would have preferred a less emotionally fraught ending. And I don’t know if they think I’m dumb or just hungry, but no one singles me out, and I heave a sigh of relief when Amy passes the now almost empty bag of Milanos she brings every single time (does she own Pepperidge Farm stock? Does she go to Costco every other week?!) as a signal that the party is slowing down. Future books are proposed, I agree wholeheartedly with the merits of each choice and resist the urge to add something I’ve already read, and when Diane selects that dull-sounding work of historical fiction I passed over on several different trips to the bookstore (i.e., strolls through the digital aisles) I dutifully write it on the expensive napkin I can’t believe they waste on a bunch of drunk bitches who would turn their noses up at me if they knew my preferred genre was “tawdry romantic affair that maybe has a murder”—and the cycle continues anew.