chapter  6
40 Pages

Reader

At face value, Anna’s comment appears to have nothing whatsoever to do with reading. What is clear is that she went on an outing with a group of people, enjoyed the company and the sharing of some kind of experience or object, and then rounded off a fun day with a brewery tour and (presumably) a beer. Anna, a white woman in her early sixties who lives in southern Ontario, Canada, is actually reflecting on her participation in a literary bus tour around sites associated with Jane Urquhart’s novel The Stone-Carvers (2001), the 2003 selection for OBOC in the three neighboring towns of Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge. Taking Anna’s words out of contextas we have done here-underlines what we believe to be a crucial factor that helps to explain the popularity of contemporary MREs: they are a form of entertainment, well suited to the time-pressured environment of twenty-firstcentury everyday life. A selection of encounters with books is offered that does not involve the long-term time commitment of a private book group, nor does it necessarily depend on having read the selected book. Within each MRE, a variety of events stage different kinds of engagement with elements of a book’s content and its extratextual aspects, such as topical issues, local or national connections, or the writer’s biography. Anna chose an aspect of her local OBOC program that appealed to her, and she clearly enjoyed both the content of the day and the experience of sharing it.