02 April 2008

The literati attempt to mate-erati

I am a New York Times junkie, it's true. Especially the book reviews. What can I say, I trust these people with where my book budget will go. Sure, I'm occasionally wary-- I still don't understand how Eat, Pray, Love received a good review with it's mess of self-indulgent crap-- but overall, they get it right, and the reviews are highly literary themselves. I identify with other book snobs who don't take themselves too seriously. So naturally, I fell in love with Rachel Donadio's essay about books and dating-- literary dealbreakers, she calls them.
I am one of those people who is so passionate about books that I could never date someone who had literary taste that strongly clashed with mine. For some people it's politics, for some it's books. Books, I've found, can both unite and divide in terms of romance. A not-quite-romance that I had in college consisted of trading books with highlighted favorite passages: I gave him Chekhov's About Love, he gave me Tennyson's Ulysses. Books reveal your character; they are microscopes, I find. I once began avoiding a date's phone calls based on his love of Kerouac and his complete ignorance of who Jane Austen was (note to all self-proclaimed "good girls": men who swear by Kerouac are not your type). I have been watching a lot of Once and Again lately, and this connecting-- or disconnecting-- over books is one of the main topics of the show. Remember Grace and her teacher, with "About Love" (which is where I first heard of it)? Or Judy and Sam with "The Spoon River Anthology"? Or how Judy hosts a Booklovers singles night and selects Franny and Zooey as her favorite book, "because she has a nervous breakdown and it turns out to be...a really good idea"?
As someone who has not only judged books by their covers but also people by their books, I was thrilled to see this idea discussed in detail. One of the most interesting parts was to see others' dealbreakers.
  • During an online dating phase, I discovered that anyone who named “The Alchemist” as his favorite book was basically revealing that he was a sensitive stoner—to be avoided at all costs. I have fallen in love within minutes of a conversation in a bar, simply from a mention of Graham Greene’s “The Power and the Glory.” And one of my most romantic moments in a twenty-something relationship was reading Nabokov’s “Mary” to one another one rainy Seattle night. There is nothing more wonderful than connecting romantically to just the right literary spirit.
    — Posted by Kim
  • I love it when someone, no matter what their favorite author, reads with great verve and for the vulgar pleasure of finding out what happens next. On the other hand, I am driven screaming into the night by people who plow through Foucault and believe that novels of suburban grotesquerie portray some essential truth about humanity.
    — Posted by Jane
  • The boys I used to date would sit in coffeeshops and read “Foucault’s Pendulum” and “La Peste” and “The Blind Watchmaker” with world-weary sophistication dripping into their drip coffee. What came out of their mouths was blissfully pretentious and juvenile. How about a guy who cheerfully admits he’s not a fan of reading, but is wide open to ideas, is brilliant in his own way, and knows how to have fun? Bonus if he occasionally reads something you give him because you think HE’D like it, not because you want to “culture” him.
    However, if I were to find an Anthony Robbins or Steven Covey book in a drawer somewhere, I would either have to desperately believe that my dog had learned to “think outside of the box” or come to the horrible realization that I am marrying my father circa 1989.
    — Posted by Michaela
  • I was interviewing for a prominent publishing company last month…in any case, I asked my interviewer what their favorite authors/books were. “The Kite Runner,” they said. Amongst other ubiquitious subway reads. I asked myself, “…do I really want to work here?”
    — Posted by Red
  • Only superficial people don’t judge by appearances.
    — Posted by Oscar Wilde
  • When Kurt Vonnegut died last year I walked around campus all day with Slaughterhouse-Five (my favorite book) in my back pocket as my little “tribute” to him. A girl in one of my classes who I had a secret crush on noticed that book and then found me on facebook later that day, expressing regret over Kurt’s passing. We got to talking and we’ve been going out more or less ever since.
    — Posted by tom
  • Loves: Virginia Woolf, Shakespeare’s sonnets (if they’ve been actually read), and Madame Bovary (if it’s in French, my pants come RIGHT off).
    — Posted by Jacob

Then again, my last boyfriend was not a big reader, and I loved his general passion for life-- and the fact that he tolerated (and was amused by) my glee over finding fellow Jane Eyre devotees. And he was an intellectual in his own way, in areas where I am the world's largest moron. Much as I don't want to exclude people due to their book tastes, it does say a lot about a person if he only reads Ayn Rand, or the aforementioned Kerouac example, or if he simply follows the crowd and is an Oprah's Book Club devotee. Ew. But difference, provided an open mind comes with it, can be quite the aphrodisiac: I once traded a man A Tale of Two Cities (my choice) for Slaughterhouse Five (his), and it was quite the experience!


Alya said...

i dont know what i'd do if my future husband/soul mate disregarded my love for reading books..

so i'm kinda with you on that one. BUT i wouldnt choose or lose a guy because of his taste in books.

Ross&Jenny said...

My boyfriend does not really read either (He's a PE teacher)but respects my reading love as a part of me. He's cute.

HollyG said...

awww...that's sweet.
See, as long as they respect the reading side of you, it's fine. Like I said, my ex doesn't really read but accepted my book love and grew to enjoy the fact that I always have multiple books in my purse (because I never know what my mood will be). It was cute as well. :-)
The main problem is being passionate about something I wholeheartedly can't relate to-- like Ayn Rand. It reflects a lifestyle choice.

Therapeutic Ramblings said...

It is sad how the classics (modern and otherwise) are often overlooked because they aren't easily digested. I remember when I heard Kurt V. died....the world lost a great mind and writer, yet most of America was too busy watching American Idol.

Here is an example of part of what is wrong with the American Public and books.....

Overheard at a Border's Bookstore