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Other People

Eat, Pray, Murder

Good book clubs rely on commitment, Sauvignon Blanc, and the pruning of members with annoying habits. Unfortunately, sometimes those members are homicidal maniacs. From March, a primer on how to tell.

Judie Bamber, Mom Reading 1, 2010. Courtesy the artist and Angles Gallery, Los Angeles.

Does he look at you blankly when you say you “really related to a character?”

Has he grandiosely claimed he could have written better versions of all the books you discuss?

When was the last time he brought food to the meeting?

Was he banned from his local library as a juvenile?

Did he show any guilt over spilling that spinach dip on your rug?

What about the time he kidnapped your niece?

Does he bring the original language edition every time you read a book in translation?

Is his glib, superficial charm making people feel inadequate about their earnest observations?

Has his raucous behavior put an end to one or more alcohol theme nights?

Seriously, how do you black out on mead?

Does he blame others for his failure to remember titles and character names?

Does he borrow books and dog-ear the pages?

Has he seduced, then callously discarded, one or more members of the group?

Does he text during book club?

Does he contribute to the Water for Elephants discussion by telling anecdotes about torturing animals as a child?

Do his digressions reveal key plot twists from Homeland?

Could you tell he was only pretending to be moved by Der Tod in Venedig?

Does it seem like he’s always man-splaining Sheila?

Is he frequently bored by the club’s selected books despite their lush settings, epic scope, emotional complexity, passionate love affairs, and gorgeously wrought prose?

Was that a second cupcake he just took?

Has he murdered any current or former member of the book club?

Does he quote Wikipedia entries during discussions?

Does he arrive at his literary judgments impulsively?

Does he monopolize the conversation in the Freedom meeting even though you felt like you had a lot to say about Franzen’s novel and the gender politics of literary criticism?

Does he pathologically lie about having finished that week’s book?

Has he learned how to manipulate group voting so his choice is always the next reading selection?

Is he frequently bored by the club’s selected books despite their lush settings, epic scope, emotional complexity, passionate love affairs, and gorgeously wrought prose?

Another cupcake?

Does he go on and on about loving the feel of a real book in his hands?

Does he become distant right after it’s obvious that you two had a moment? One minute you’re laughing over Me Talk Pretty One Day, then all of a sudden it’s like he doesn’t even see you with those cold, dead eyes?

Does he explicitly threaten Kindle executives?

Does he fail to grasp the concept of pathetic fallacy no matter how many times you explain it to him?

Does he promise to eventually hire everyone in his global publishing empire?

Another cupcake?

Does he have a string of failed book-club memberships in his past?

Does he brag about his ingenious method of shoplifting hardcovers?

Does he possess what seems like a permanent cough that makes it difficult to have an intelligent conversation about The Tiger’s Wife?

Did you overhear him saying he hates reading but comes for “the chicks?”

Is his manifesto your next book club selection?

There go the cupcakes.

Time to find a new book club.

Matt Seidel is a staff writer for The Millions. His articles can be found here. More by Matt Seidel