Why An Essay Club?

I have what a good friend once dubbed a “doughnut hole” approach to knowledge. I’m constantly consuming information — scrolling through my Twitter stream, skimming the New York Times on my iPad, frantically trying to keep up with The New Yorker — and I tend to get the gist of things, if not the core. “Did you read that piece about the scientist in Boston who is trying to replicate that gene that was connected to that thing? I don’t remember the details — or his name — but it was really interesting!” There’s the doughnut: the big gaping hole at the center of my understanding of any topic.

This essay club came, in part, out of a desire to correct this tendency to dip into a topic for a few minutes at a time without really thinking too rigorously about it. I also, selfishly, wanted to create something that would exist separately from my work and social life. It’s an indulgence — an excuse to sit with smart people, eat great food, and discuss interesting things. And, because the club is focused on essays, it isn’t as intimidating as a book club.

And that leads me to Essay Club #1. The first meeting*, on April 15th, will focus on “Women in Charge,” and be moderated by Irin Carmon. In addition to being brilliant and a good friend, Carmon is a staff writer at Salon, where she reports on politics and culture. She is also a Visiting Fellow in the Program for the Study of Reproductive Justice at Yale Law School for 2012-2013. She’ll be selecting a few essays for attendees to read in advance, and helping guide the discussion on the night of the club.

I’ll publish a new post to re-cap the issues discussed and questions raised at each meeting and introduce the topic, moderator, and reading list for the following month’s meeting. Please feel free to read it all — my posts and the selected essays — and post your own thoughts, or to host your own essay club meeting to coincide with mine.

I can’t wait to hear what you think. Here’s to filling that doughnut hole with all sorts of nutritious food for thought.

*The Essay Club actually began in 2010, and had two very successful meetings (topics: education, green energy) before I joined a startup and ran out of time. This is Essay Club 2.0.

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