Wednesday, April 02, 2008

What are you reading?

Apparently, one is what one reads - or the assumptions are that whether one should be in a relationship depends on what one reads as a sign warrant of one's character, intelligence, status, potential as a date /mate - in Rachel Donadio's New York Times Book Review essay"It’s Not You, It’s Your Books." Donadio quotes many people about problems in their relationship due to apparent incompatibility from their reading. Donadio starts with a great lead:
Some years ago, I was awakened early one morning by a phone call from a friend. She had just broken up with a boyfriend she still loved and was desperate to justify her decision. “Can you believe it!” she shouted into the phone. “He hadn’t even heard of Pushkin!”
This definitely drew me in. She continues:
Anyone who cares about books has at some point confronted the Pushkin problem: when a missed — or misguided — literary reference makes it chillingly clear that a romance is going nowhere fast. At least since Dante’s Paolo and Francesca fell in love over tales of Lancelot, literary taste has been a good shorthand for gauging compatibility.
According to one source, Anna Fels,
reading habits can be a rough indicator of other qualities. “It tells something about ... their level of intellectual curiosity, what their style is,” Fels said. “It speaks to class, educational level.”
And here's another aspect:
Naming a favorite book or author can be fraught. Go too low, and you risk looking dumb. Go too high, and you risk looking like a bore — or a phony.
I know I have faced this. When I read books that I suspect might not sound literary enough, I wonder how I will be judged. Friends often apologize for reading mystery novels, thinking that won't sound sufficiently intellectual. My dad, even while reading The New Yorker, claimed he was "no intellectual." I'm always proud of friends who are very open about their reading list, such as Claire or Paula.

However, Donadio's conclusion seems to say that we (or I) needn't worry so much:
For most people, love conquers literary taste. “Most of my friends are indeed quite shallow, but not so shallow as to break up with someone over a literary difference,” said Ben Karlin, a former executive producer of “The Daily Show” and the editor of the new anthology “Things I’ve Learned From Women Who’ve Dumped Me.”
So, it's good to know that unconditional love can extend past the stack on the night stand!


Blogger Claire said...

RE: your comment on my post

I've read MRS. DALLOWAY (loved it!) and also several of her shorter essays/stories. A few years ago, I started TO THE LIGHTHOUSE, but it was the first thing of hers that I read and I had a time following her style, so I set it down. I need to pick it back up now!

8:06 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home