Literary Dining Clubs

Many visitors to the Reading Room know that I’m a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, the famous society founded in the 1930s to honor Sherlock Holmes and analyze Dr. Watson’s accounts of the great detective’s exploits. This may sound like a grandly scholarly organization, albeit with a slightly eccentric rationale behind it. In fact, the BSI was originally a kind of dining club, where the drink flowed and riotous lunches and dinners went on for all hours.

Things are slightly more temperate now, but just barely. The local members of the BSI meet every month in downtown Washington at what’s called the Half-Pay Lunch. These lunches typically go on for two to two and a half hours, with the talk being lively and wide-ranging (and not restricted to Sherlockiana). There are similar evening dinners held regularly by local “scion societies” of the BSI. All in all, the organization has not forgotten its alcoholic roots.

As members of the Reading Room also know, I’m a science fiction and fantasy fan, regularly attending conventions and get-togethers hither and yon. Some cons still go in for masquerading, and some are largely media events (such as Comic-Con), but I prefer those that are primarily book-oriented. Here there are panels, readings, signings, and book rooms. But, make no mistake, this group is also devoted to exuberant lunches and long evenings spent talking about books, writing, and life over Guinness and Wild Turkey.

Both the BSI and SF fandom are important to me, since I spend a lot of time alone. Their activities take me out of this chair and away from my desk, encourage me to remember that I’m a social being and not just a bookworm. Still, both groups are, at heart, literary organizations, albeit with a humanely sybaritic aspect.

Do other members of the Reading Room belong to comparable, and more or less literary, clubs, sodalities and organizations? What are they? What are your meetings like? Who joins and how does one become a member? Please share your thoughts and anecdotes. Many thanks.

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