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Readers' Night Out
May 29, 2014 9:10 PM   Subscribe

At silent-reading parties, guests bring books, stay as long as they want, and aren't allowed to speak to one another.
posted by paleyellowwithorange (47 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
So it's a Diogenes Book Club?
posted by Small Dollar at 9:15 PM on May 29 [12 favorites]


That was some pretty mediocre journalism. OK, you're not supposed to talk during the reading party, but you couldn't talk to anyone at the end of for some quotes or perspectives? That basically read, "I went to a silent-reading party, where people read silently in a bar, and... I read silently in a bar then went home and wrote this shit article." It doesn't even really address the most obvious question -- what is the POINT of reading in a room full of people -- other than hand-waving about energy. Bah humbug.
posted by axiom at 9:15 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


.
posted by Token Meme at 9:18 PM on May 29


Any rowdies heading to the back room of Brooklyn’s Soda Bar

should probably have taken a cue from the name of the damn bar.
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:27 PM on May 29 [2 favorites]


I was going to say "it's like being in a monastery, except for the lack of alcohol" but evidently this Soda Bar does indeed serve alcohol.
posted by XMLicious at 9:32 PM on May 29


The article was a little thin, but the idea is excellent!
posted by notsnot at 9:32 PM on May 29 [9 favorites]


The version of this I throw at my house pretty much every single night is much better because 1) imaginary people and 2) cats.
posted by thivaia at 9:34 PM on May 29 [27 favorites]


At first, I wondered how this scenario was different from taking a book to a quiet cafe to read for a few hours (aka, my morning summer routine). But then I read that all but four of the participants were women, and I suspect part of the appeal might lie in the enforced lack of any unwanted interruptions.
posted by bibliowench at 9:35 PM on May 29 [13 favorites]


I'm used to seeing Seattle trying to be the way it imagines NYC to be. It is good to see this process finally working the other way around.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:40 PM on May 29 [4 favorites]


what is the POINT of reading in a room full of people -- other than hand-waving about energy.

I've noticed that "energy" is something you either feel or you don't. If you do it can be an important part of your life. If you don't then that's good too.

I like the silent reading though. I have one set of friends that this is a fairly common activity with. Because there are generally three of us, if any two start talking the third provides a reproving glare.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:42 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


OK, you're not supposed to talk during the reading party, but you couldn't talk to anyone at the end of for some quotes or perspectives?

If you take the time to read the article, you'll see the writer do just that and learn several reasons why people went to this event.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:56 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


Soda's in my neighborhood - it's actually a pretty great bar. I watched a few episodes of Breaking Bad there last season; it was an awesome crowd. I didn't know about the silent reading parties though.
posted by Itaxpica at 10:01 PM on May 29


I want a place to sit in quiet with other people and read when I’m stressed out or need a break or a release of some kind. Or if I just want to go somewhere for a while to get out of the house. I want a place with people who are happy to be out in the world enjoying something they love, but no one is expected to buy anything or talk to anyone or any extras. Just relaxing by themselves. Thinking about something that interests them.

If you’re at a bookstore there is the expectation of commerce. At the library you’re reading other people’s books and there are usually children and even adults who don’t know how to act in a library. If you’re in the park there’s usually people playing games and calling plays to each other. At a bar you might find a quiet corner every once in a while, but before too long the whole place gets too noisy to even think. And if I dare go home there are a million different distractions that keep me from the sitting down for an hour to actually get a couple chapters in. Basically I'm thinking communal but dedicated reading space where people can come and go and no one’s expected to do anything else.

A once off party or two is fine enough as an event, but I'd like to see something more permanent. So that people show up because they like it and it's comfortable. Not just as a novelty.
posted by downtohisturtles at 10:09 PM on May 29 [9 favorites]


I would totally go to this, even while feeling a little foolish about it. Since I've started working at home, I really value time out of the house, but I'm not enough of a social butterfly to go out with people every night. I like reading in bars in the daytime, but they all get too loud at night.
posted by roll truck roll at 10:19 PM on May 29 [5 favorites]


At UNI, I remember the intensity of a 24 hour study hall during exams. It was magical to be in a room with so many people in dynamic silence cloistered into little cubicle desks.

Also ~ NYtimes bestseller: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain, of TED talk fame.

Also ~~~ The Sound of Silent Retreats (by Janet Kinosian on huff post)
posted by pftoet at 10:31 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


I think I preferred the library sleepovers we had growing up where we just lurked in the back reading Sweet Valley High books and giggling. And watching librarians lunge out of the aisles to shhh people.

But seriously, I could do this at my house or outside by myself. Ehhhhhhh.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:41 PM on May 29


I would join a be-quiet-and-read club, and I would definitely join the Diogenes Club if I were a man living inside a Sherlock Holmes story. Sometimes I feel sociable, but have nothing to say.
posted by betweenthebars at 10:54 PM on May 29 [4 favorites]


It says a lot about me that I read this and went BEST PARTY EVER.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:54 PM on May 29 [15 favorites]


Yeah I could get totally into this. Doesn't matter whether the energy is empirically real or merely imagined, I'm sure for many folks there's a palpably felt "connection" or "rapport" to the synchronized group activity. I suppose moderate applications of booze could facilitate this effect even more.

This past weekend I rode the Shanghai metro for several hours (I was out exploring with no particular destination in mind) and during most of that time I had noise-cancelling earphones in playing very soft jazz piano. It was kind of mesmerizing: adrift in a sea of quiet faces, most of them head down reading/watching tiny screens, all momentarily a part of this loose organism careening down dark subterranean pathways to our various stops. It was incredibly cathartic for me.

It felt quite similar to experiences I've had playing in chamber music groups (i.e. conductor-less string/wind ensembles). There's a kind of intense concentration that occurs in those sessions and when all intents are locked in to that end goal you experience a kind of transcendence –energy, if you will– where you fully realize that you're part of an event that could not even exist if any of the elements now arrayed were to suddenly dissolve or change. It's often very fleeting, a transient communal experience that seems to fulfill both the need to belong and the need to have purpose all at once.

Yes this sounds exactly like it meets the same kinds of goals that monasteries and retreats and group meditations do. Cool stuff.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:45 PM on May 29 [8 favorites]


I can understand the appeal for some people, because there is an energy to being in a room filled with people thinking hard to themselves. However, I don't have the self control to participate in something like this. It would be one long evening of me zipping and unzipping my jacket, reapplying chapstick and lotion, jiggling my leg, going outside for air, feeling like I'm drinking or chewing super loudly, going to the restroom at least three times, and finally just leaning back in the chair and staring into space as I drink the last of my drink, because there's no way to concentrate.

This is why, when I go to the library, I have to sit at an isolation desk.
posted by rue72 at 11:58 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


[A couple of comments deleted; no need to make this personal, and maybe less with the "fuck you"-ing explosive outrage.]
posted by taz at 12:35 AM on May 30 [2 favorites]


A part of me loves being around other people. I also love being quiet and not being expected to interact. And I love to read in the presence of others, especially if they are also reading. I'm not so crazy about the idea of live musical accompaniment but I could live with it. I can't wait for something like this to happen near to where I live.
posted by treepour at 12:56 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


what is the POINT of reading in a room full of people -- other than hand-waving about energy.

When I was much more single and less childed, I used to enjoy sitting and reading (and writing) in a pub or cafe while the normal fisticuffs and folderol went on around me. I would feel a bit embarrassed at a silent, organized public reading event like this.

Still, I understand the motivation. If you're in a room full of people holding books but possibly stealing glances at you, you are, if you are the typically easily distracted person of today, probably ten times more likely to spend the night actually reading than if you sit at home within easy reach of everything unbook.
posted by pracowity at 12:59 AM on May 30


I love reading in cafés and bars, but part of that is halfway listening to conversations and watching people while I read. If everyone else was reading silently I might as well have stayed at home.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:00 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


And if I dare go home there are a million different distractions that keep me from the sitting down for an hour to actually get a couple chapters in.

Yeah, which is why a lot of my books end up being read on the toilet where there are no distractions, but you do get a cold butt, crampy legs and a crick in your neck amongst other disadvantages.

Somebody would need to organise something like this in Amsterdam, preferably in a pub with good beer.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:19 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I think this sounds great. Unfortunately I fart often and loudly, so probably would not be invited back. Maybe they will have these things with some kind of ambient noise in the future for people like me.

No, I'm not sure if I am joking either.
posted by Literaryhero at 1:55 AM on May 30


This was guaranteed to be a New Yorker or New York Times Style section article.
posted by empath at 2:46 AM on May 30


The original reading party, in Seattle.
posted by gingerest at 3:38 AM on May 30 [2 favorites]


> At the library you’re reading other people’s books and there are usually children and even adults who don’t know how to act in a library.

Public libraries and cellphones go together like peanut butter and shards of glass.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:59 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


This is a totally new idea to me and I like it a lot! I get distracted easily when reading so cafes/bars are normally no good. There's something nice about the companionship you get from being in a communal space but not actually talking with anyone.
posted by neilb449 at 4:45 AM on May 30 [2 favorites]


Silent reading meetup in Cambridge! Who's with me?

(only half joking)
posted by Sheydem-tants at 5:57 AM on May 30


This sounds perfect for me—much better than the Quiet Party I attended a few years ago, which didn't include the reading component. You were supposed to do all the social things you do at any party, only without the chit-chat.

I don't know what I expected (I'm not much of a party-goer), but it was all really young people (mostly Asians for some reason) who came to flirt (maybe they didn't speak English well, and they relished the idea of being able to flirt without smalltalk). I was the old, married guy, totally out of place, just as I would have been at a loud bar. Before going, I pictured a room full of bookish, nerdish people who loved the written word. But it was all suits and miniskirts.

The 20-somethings passed notes to each other. No one passed anything to me. I made a dorky attempt to be included by starting one of those Exquisite Corpse games: I drew a monster's head on a piece of paper, ending it with just a neck and no body. Then I passed it to the person next to me, with a note that he should draw the rest of the creature. He looked at it like it was a turd and passed it to the woman next to him. My drawing traveled around the room until it came back to me, still without a body.

Then this sort-of frat guy showed up, got fed up with the silence after a few minutes, turned to me, and asked, "Are the drinks expensive here?" I put a finger to my lips and handed him a pad of paper and a pen. He looked at me like I was five-years-old and said, "Come on!"

Which is when I left. All my life, I had hated loud parties. Stupidly, I expected this to be some kind of nirvana for quiet, middle-aged, introverts like me. Instead it was ... a party.
posted by grumblebee at 6:30 AM on May 30 [3 favorites]


Sheydem-tants: I'd totally be there, except, well, either Cambridge I know off the top of my head is way too far away.

Silent reading meetup in DC/Maryland! Who's with me?

(Not really joking, but have no idea how to organize a MeFi meetup either. There's a few places around here with a private back room which might work, but I don't have the budget for that, and I have musician friends but ditto. (I could play, but, um, it'd defeat the point for me.) One Jason's Deli in College Park has a backroom that they advertise for study sessions and parties and it's free, but no alcohol, which takes away some of the ambiance possibly. Another place in Greenbelt, MD, usually has live music every night of the week---it's nice music, it could be worked around by picking the night accordingly instead of trying to overlay it with a different musician the way they seem to have tried to do with bar music. Hrm. Halp? Do I take this to MetaTalk? AskMe?)

(Very Meta* newbie such inexperience so flail wow.)
posted by seyirci at 7:41 AM on May 30


Reminds me of the coffee shops described in 283 Useful Ideas From Japan where good music is played to be listened to so talking is forbidden. Note that I've looked for and asked about such places IRL, but never found one.
posted by Rash at 9:11 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


This sounds delightful to me, although it's possible the music would bother me too much. I'd certainly give it a try, though, despite caring absolutely zero about the "energy" of a room.

The downside of being "like my living room, but I have to wear pants when I am curled up reading" would probably be more than made up for by "like my living room, but someone brings me tasty food and beverages I don't have to prepare myself and don't have to fight the the cat for, and I have zero guilt about feeling like I ought to be cleaning something."
posted by Stacey at 9:41 AM on May 30 [5 favorites]


I'm used to seeing Seattle trying to be the way it imagines NYC to be. It is good to see this process finally working the other way around.

I was just going to say, this concept reminds me almost word for word of talking to a japanese exchange student about what she imagined Seattle being like before she actually visited.
posted by emptythought at 11:29 AM on May 30


Rash: Reminds me of the coffee shops described in 283 Useful Ideas From Japan where good music is played to be listened to so talking is forbidden.

This reminds me of the term "braindance," used to describe electronic music made for listening, not dancing.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:53 AM on May 30


My friends and I do this sometimes, though we do occasionally get to chatting before going back to our books. In our world it's called a Parallel Play coffee date. I think it would be lovely to do with strangers, too.
posted by vytae at 12:47 PM on May 30


If you take the time to read the article, you'll see the writer do just that and learn several reasons why people went to this event.

I did read it. Here's the single paragraph that has any sort of "here's what people said about it" information in it, leaving aside the event organizer herself (who obviously is biased):
All of the attendees I talked to—from the woman intent on W. G. Sebald’s “Austerlitz,” in the corner, to another reading Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In,” who was there with her mother—said that they became interested in these parties because they seemed to offer a chance for undistracted reading. This was superior to their apartments (too noisy), libraries (too institutional), and parks (too unpredictable). But the thing they seemed to value most about the event was what one man, reading Russell Hoban’s “Riddley Walker,” called “a mild peer pressure” that made them uncomfortable about looking at their phones.
(Emphasis mine.) First off, "all of the attendees I talked to" is one of those phrases that makes me suspicious that the author in fact only talked to the readers of Austerlitz, Lean In, and Riddley Walker. My main interest in reading this article was answering the question of why on earth you'd want to create some sort of quasi-library in a bar. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, I just don't get the appeal, and the article does practically nothing to shed light on it, other than to describe libraries as too institutional, whatever that means. And I don't know why someone else looking at their phone would in some way present an issue to another reader... particularly given that the author mentions several people using ereaders, which is basically not too dissimilar from a big cell phone at the end of the day.

I'm not trying to say these people are somehow doing something bad, I'm all for live-and-let-live, but if you're going to write an article about it, at least explain how this newfangled approach to public reading is better (for the attendees) than the old ones.
posted by axiom at 1:05 PM on May 30


And maybe I'm just not the target audience, but having a cellist playing Habanera five feet away (which is commingling with whatever music is playing in the other room of the bar) is diametrically opposite to what I would consider an environment conducive to undistracted reading. Two different songs playing simultaneously drives me batty.
posted by axiom at 1:08 PM on May 30


Somebody would need to organise something like this in Amsterdam, preferably in a pub with good beer.

Make it a coffee shop where I can get a good contact buzz and we're on. I miss that aspect of college.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:11 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


The biggest problem I have with reading in public is the stupidly high number of men who feel that my opening a book is somehow an invitation to chat. :-( This kind of party is the solution to that, and I would be so there.
posted by RedEmma at 2:53 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


My wife and I went to Burp Castle in NYC last month and found our Shangri-La of good beer and a bartender who hushed the room when things got loud. We've been reading in bars for years and so when we go back at the end of July, I expect we'll be spending a chunk of time there.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:01 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


There are two non-profit bars where I live (they're awesome). I bet I can get one of them to run one of these on at least a trial basis.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:24 PM on May 30


This would be terrible. I want to read alone. Not feel "energy", whatever that means. Or I want to discuss. This just seems like one of those nerd things I'm supposed to think is awesome just cause some nerds like it.
posted by Aranquis at 4:27 PM on May 30


I can understand the appeal for some people, because there is an energy to being in a room filled with people thinking hard to themselves.
This is what I love about chess tournaments.
posted by dfan at 6:50 PM on May 30


I volunteered at a high school this morning and a lot of the students had a class period where they were doing something called SSR. I asked what that was, and the answer was Sustained Silent Reading. Maybe this is a thing that is catching on. I hope so.

I agree with axiom that live music would be distracting.
posted by bink at 11:02 PM on May 30


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