Call me fish meal.
August 4, 2008 9:03 PM   Subscribe

What is the closet thing to MetaFilter, but about books and/or writing?

I don't have anyone to talk to about the books I'm reading. It is no fun to finish 'Tree of Smoke,' read the B.R. Myers review of it, and have no one to yell about it to. I just read the first part of 'The Sound and the Fury' and no one was around to witness my brain turning inside out. After reading 'Moby Dick,' my heart was fairly screaming "DUDE! DID YOU SEE THAT WHOLE CHAPTER ABOUT SPERM?! OH MY GOD! HE TOUCHED ANOTHER DUDE'S HAND IN A VAT OF SPERM!" But there were no dudes there to hold hands with me when I needed it.

I'd like to share my own writing with other people, so they can tell me to quit, and quick, before I make a fool out of myself and my family. The writing websites I have found have been, how shall I say, full of very bad writers.

I refuse to believe that all folks who enjoy books whose emphases are on diction, style, theme, plot, etc. are all, by dint of it, above talking about it on the internet.

I am a GoodReads member, but nearly everyone on there confuses the word 'review' with the word 'synopsis.' Or, more appropriate to the level of erudition inherent, 'book report.' There are many folks who write wonderful cogent stuff, but you have to dig to find them. And anyway, discussion is limited to comments on reviews.

Short of finding actual flesh and blood friends, is there nowhere on this wide and desolate internet to rap about books? (And I don't mean rap like Snoop Dogg raps.)

(I mean rap like Dr. Dre does.)
posted by Darth Fedor to Writing & Language (24 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
SomethingAwful's Book Barn?
posted by unixrat at 9:07 PM on August 4, 2008

You can sign up with LibraryThing, create a topic on the talk page, or join a group of your choosing and start a discussion.
posted by micketymoc at 9:17 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

I will be your friend and talk to you about books. You speak with the voice of my own heart.
posted by prefpara at 9:51 PM on August 4, 2008 [4 favorites]

I've been wondering about this too. There have been many books where I've wanted to hammer out some meaning or other in, but haven't had people around me that had read it. I know a number of 'standard readings' exist, but my best attempt so far at finding anything more than the 3-line "this novel is about ___" theme description on Wikipedia has been to look up published articles and try to tease out what everyone before them thought (since, invariably, whatever the published article is about is neither interesting nor convincing).

If there's nothing currently suitable, there's 3 of us now apparently.. it'd be a start!
posted by devilsbrigade at 10:42 PM on August 4, 2008

Arts and Letters Daily is pretty good for links, although it lacks the whole "forum" aspect.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:44 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

probably offtopic, but I always thought MeFi would be great to have a words/writing section. Sort of like the music and travel section.
posted by dhruva at 10:55 PM on August 4, 2008

I have no suggestions, but man, I feel you. I use GoodReads to keep track of what I've read and do real reviews -- the "book report" reviews I see puzzle me too -- but discussion isn't that great there. I've had some people make really great comments on my reviews, but it's definitely in the minority. Mostly I get comments from people that agree but don't say much else, which is nice in its own way but not stimulating. Then, the kicker is the pointless "WELL I LIKED THIS BOOK SO THERE" comments that don't say anything else. I wonder if they bother to post that for everyone who disliked a book; I know I don't bother unless I have something substantive to contribute. I get that people get defensive about books they like, but any book I'm liable to get defensive about I purposely don't go read the negative reviews...

Anyway, the problem, it seems, with places like GoodReads and LibraryThing (I used to be a LT member) is that it's used both by people who take writing and literature very seriously and discuss things on several levels, and people who just like to read and don't know much about writing or literature specifically. I use the term "problem" loosely, because really there's nothing wrong with being in either category, it's just the mixing that causes friction and an unsatisfied feeling; when people from each category try to discuss a book, they tend to get irritated at each other. The "serious business" group tends to feel that cool stuff went over the other group's head, and the more casual group tends to feel that the "serious business" group is boring or elitist.

It would be nice for us "serious business" folks if MeFi had a book discussion session, since there'd be less people complaining about the discussion topics and opinions. Which I guess is why you're asking for something similar to MeFi. But yeah, all I've ever found are GR/LT-type sites.
posted by Nattie at 11:27 PM on August 4, 2008

I'm not sure if a MeFi style solution is the right answer. To my mind, MeFi is a pretty continual stream of Xs, where Xs are questions, links, projects, etc. Everyone looks at the subject, deals with it, & moves on. Old posts are kept as good reference, but are never really revived, because not enough people see it. I don't really know what would be the right answer, or how to ensure some minimum of thought. I think phrasing posts as 'reviews' probably tends to attract people who either are looking for books to read or want to agree/disagree with others about a book they've already made up their mind about. I'd much prefer somewhere where people posted maybe something more along the lines of a journal article's introduction & conclusion.
posted by devilsbrigade at 11:37 PM on August 4, 2008

Does Amazon have this? It'd be the natural place for it ... and I must confess, I've never created an Amazon account to look.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:56 PM on August 4, 2008

There have been requests for a BookFilter subsite before. If you guys want to try to start a MeFi book club, just let me know what the first selection is and I promise to participate in the first round.
posted by gsteff at 12:13 AM on August 5, 2008 [3 favorites]

The Writing and Literature subforum on Barbelith used to be awesome, but the place has been pretty much abandoned by most users these days. The general conversation, occult and comics subforums are still struggling on, but it's basically broken as a site. Which sucks, because I loved it there.

I shall be watching this thread with interest.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:12 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite] used to be what you want. It was subscription based, and used awful software. It's now free, the forums have been reinvented, there's a online mag at the front page, and it's in transition, but may well revive and thrive. Right now, lots of insider stuff, so don't be put off; it's in beta. It's a welcoming group of smart, witty, readers and writers. It's always been well-moderated, and has had an excellent signal:noise ratio. If it's not what you want right now, try again in a few months.
posted by theora55 at 4:37 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

There was a, but it never gained traction.
posted by theora55 at 4:38 AM on August 5, 2008

I guess your problem is that the you're looking for discussion. On any given day the number of people who have just finished Moby Dick and are bursting to talk about it is going to be fairly small.

Maybe you're looking for an online book-club? This month we're going to read X? I don't know where you'd find one, but if you could get 20 or 30 people to commit, it would be fairly simple to set up (just some forum software and a schedule, really).
posted by Leon at 5:03 AM on August 5, 2008

I would love to have a place online where I could discuss books with others! Plus I could use some motivation to take on something better than the dreck I find myself reading these days.
posted by suki at 5:12 AM on August 5, 2008

Seconding Readerville -- it's a good place for discussion of books as well as the practical aspects of the writing life.
posted by mothershock at 6:07 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Well, I'll put in a plug for the listserv I run: Wallace-l. It's ostensible purpose is to discuss stuff by David Foster Wallace, but the guy just doesn't produce enough new material to keep that discussion going nonstop so we discuss all sorts of books. We have a group of about 500 people from around the world that includes students, writers, professors, bloggers, and other polymaths. There is also a Pynchon-l. You should try it or check out our archives.
posted by mattbucher at 7:39 AM on August 5, 2008

Ooh! I'm reading V. right now, so I'm going to go sign up for Pynchon-l. Thanks for that.

I would love a MeFi book club. I've been nosing around this site and I'm desperately trying to keep an IRL book club together, but it mainly just ends up with my boyfriend and I swapping books a few times a week and discussing them with each other. I will go check out right now too.
posted by booknerd at 8:25 AM on August 5, 2008

I kind of like Head Butler.
posted by Miko at 8:37 AM on August 5, 2008

You can sign up with LibraryThing, create a topic on the talk page, or join a group of your choosing and start a discussion.

Or even join this group (which unfortunately is totally dead).
posted by juv3nal at 9:45 AM on August 5, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, all. Readerville looks like fun.

All this makes me wish I was good at the internet, then i could start my own shindig. Instead, I'm bad at it, and must crash the shindigs of others.
posted by Darth Fedor at 9:57 AM on August 5, 2008

I would love a Mefi book club. Somebody smarter than me get right on that!
posted by CwgrlUp at 4:27 PM on August 5, 2008

Just saw this today: 100 Places to Connect With Other Bibliophiles Online
posted by sharkfu at 7:57 AM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

The whole purpose of Ning is to allow non-techie people to create Web 2.0 social geegaws. You could start something there and instruct all the people who favorited this post to head over.
posted by nev at 7:04 AM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

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