Two separate people have now sent me this article, so now I feel compelled to comment on it. Incidentally, keeping a blog updated is more difficult than one would expect. It sort of feels like work, though I can’t think why. Anyway, the NY Times recently published this essay in its Sunday Book Review section, which starts with the following three sentences:”
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!”
The author then goes on to note: “We’ve all been there.”
Have we now.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that going on a date with someone who believes J.K. Rowling is the most brilliant author in modern-day literature would send me fumbling for the phone to get an emergency text message from a friend who has suddenly, inexplicably, come down with a case of zombies eating her brain and has only two hours to tell me where the treasure is buried, along with a copy of her will, which I have to get first before her evil twin sister rewrites it. And it unnerves me, true, to find people who are utterly incapable of reading anything longer than a newspaper article. Or a blog post. Or the jokes in Playboy. All of this is true.
But the women in this article are freaking me out.
Today’s dating sphere is terrifying enough without disregarding people according to their literary tastes. There’s one woman who dumped a guy because he liked Ayn Rand. Now, this I consider a wise decision, because Ayn Rand is a bit of a nutjob, and anyone attempting to guide his life by the writings of Ayn Rand is not someone to whom I would consider binding my troth, if you know what I mean, and many of you will not. But this woman broke up with him not over philosophy issues, but because Rand is, in her mind, a poor writer. Someone needs to examine this woman’s head. You wouldn’t break up with someone who guided his life by the principle that the individual must serve himself above all others, but you would break up with him because he enjoyed reading about said self-serving principle in a mythical world? I grant you I have never done drugs, but it seems to me that this is the kind of logic they would induce.
Now, back in Normal-land, where the rest of us dwell, a spirited dispute over whether an author is or is not worth time and effort is a lot of fun, and needn’t ruin a friendship or a partnership. I have a long-reigning debate going with a very dear friend of mine, who shall remain nameless because I would not want to embarrass her by airing her questionable literary tastes, who likes Haruki Murakami and dislikes Anais Nin. Both of which opinions, I submit to you, are madness, since Murakami’s habit of dropping Americana throughout the Wind-Up Bird Chronicles made me want to hurl said volume into the New Hampshire snowdrift outside my window, and Anais Nin is foreplay and intellectual commentary on sexuality in written word format, and she has in addition one of the best full names I’ve ever heard (Angela Anais Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell).
The point is, the friendship survives. Nor was it even remotely shaken by either of these exchanges. Because there are lots of things about which we do agree, and we need not break out the checklist of favorite books to determine we like each other.
Another case: a good friend of mine loves those hideous DragonLance Chronicles because when he was a lad, he spent a full year devouring every one he could get his hands on. He begged his fiance to read them, and she obliged, and now mocks him at every opportunity, because they are dreadful fantasy fluff. Yet, remarkably, according to NYT, they are still together and quite happy. It’s almost as though grown-ups are aware that having a personal opinion is a good thing.
For the record, I love Don Delillo, Jeannette Winterson, Michael Ondaatje, Stephen King, and Kahlil Gibran (who has another awesome full name, Gibran Khalil Gibran bin Mikhael bin Saâd). And you may still buy me a drink even if none of those things are true for you.
But so help me, if you haven’t read a book in the last decade, I may throw said drink in your face. I don’t care what you read, but you have to read.