Reading with Flips Flipping Pages
MANILA, Philippines - If you thought book clubs only existed on "Oprah," you’re wrong: there’s a local one that has been around for a while, and it’s tons more fun than Oprah’s.
Flips Flipping Pages, which started as an online group on Shelfari in 2007, has turned into a raucous, friendly, flesh and blood book club.
Last April 20, I was invited to be a co-moderator — along with Honey de Peralta and Carljoe Javier — of Flips Flipping Pages’ April meeting, a discussion on William Shakespeare’s "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" at Craft Coffee Workshop.
I'd heard that FFP was a tight-knit group, so as a newcomer who isn’t good with strangers, I expected an afternoon of sitting nervously in a corner and gnawing at my nails. I needn’t have worried: while most of the members of FFP have known each other a while, they also design their meetings to be as interactive as possible.
Our co-mod responsibilities started with hosting a trivia quiz on Shakespeare’s life and works, which was a bit of subtle encouragement to members that they did know Shakespeare. Other activities, such as the discussion blog set up by Honey and the performances of scenes from "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," also loosened up the atmosphere while ensuring that members were connecting with the text.
One concern I had going into the meeting was the assignment: would people be game to read Shakespeare? It’s hard enough to get my students to read him without SparkNotes, let alone a bunch of people who read for fun. While the Bard’s stories are moving, insightful, witty, and all other good things a book can be, his language isn’t the easiest to get through. I mean, there’s a reason his books are full of footnotes.
And so I was slightly worried about the mood this book would set -- would people like it? Or would it bring back traumatic memories of grade school declamation contests and high school book reports?
The result was a middle way of the two possibilities. In the discussion, people admitted that they didn’t like Shakespeare at first, but they came around after reading a play outside of a stuffy classroom. As a keeper of a stuffy classroom myself, I admit that the ways we teach literature can suck the pleasure out of reading. Initiatives like Flips Flipping Pages can help bring wayward readers back, and show them that reading for analysis is not completely separate from reading for fun.
If you’re expecting a reverential atmosphere akin to the literature classroom, where students and teacher wax poetic for an hour over the beauty of Shakespeare’s meter, you may be disappointed. Close reading isn’t the foremost goal of FFP, mostly due to the casual nature of discussion and the length of their chosen texts.
FFP’s discussion on "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" revolved around noting the connections of great works of literature to members’ own experiences. The approach to discussion is mostly thematic (e.g. “Were the women in 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream' empowered”?) and not text-based.
Also, members weren’t restricted to a specific edition of the text. Having just one version of a text is important for a traditional classroom, because it allows students and teachers to refer to specific lines, pages, and chapters for discussion. That way, everyone is quite literally on the same page.
But don’t expect fluffy discussion at FFP either. Much of our discussion was reader-response based (e.g. “How did you feel about this?”), but we also got in some weighty ideas. At some points during the discussion, we were debating the artistic merit of Shakespeare’s work, where the notion of artistic merit comes from, and the universality of Shakespeare’s plays.
While these ideas could’ve been explored in depth, the topics were a welcome departure from usual coffee shop conversation.
While curling up with a book and a mug of tea is a wonderful solitary activity, sometimes hearing what other people have to say about a book is a refreshing change. What’s more, seeing people who are just as excited about books as you are is encouraging, and ensures that you’ll always have someone to dork out with.
Try to flip a few pages with the Flips, and watch reading become a lot louder, a lot dorkier, and overall, more fun. - Rappler.com
Florianne L. Jimenez teaches Literature and College Writing at the University of the Philippines Diliman. She is a Palanca award-winning non-fiction writer, with a creative interest in the self, places, and consciousness. She has a massive to-be-read pile dating back to 2008, which includes such titles as 'The Collected Stories of Gabriel Garcia Marquez,' 'Book 5 of Y: The Last Man,' and 'The Collected Works of TS Spivet: A Novel.'