Rogue Ink

March 31, 2008

Dealbreaker: The Book Collection

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.



  1. I agree. I just thought the idea of condemning people for their literary (or non-literary) taste was–dare I say it–tasteless. I read voraciously and sometimes indiscriminately, so what does that say about me. I felt the highlight of the article was near the end, where one of the interviewees pointed out that the two lovebirds who like the same book may do so for very different reasons. This (like everything else, I’ve decided) gets back to our conversation about idiolects and the problem of communication (and, as a result, the fantasy that we frequently or even ever understand other people).

    I’m spent.

    Oh wait. You’re special.

    Comment by Rebecca — March 31, 2008 @ 6:59 pm | Reply

  2. Ha! I read the original article and was compelled to roll my eyes and let out a deep sigh of “oy vey,” just like my Irish grandmother. As a single gal (and cute! call me!) this article reminds me of why I hate dating.

    Recently I was flirting with someone at a bar who asked me what music I like. I responded with a few bands, he nodded along and gave a very insightful “Me too.” Awkward silence ensued. So I asked him what he was reading lately. More awkward silence with uncomfortable smiling and clearing of the throat. He then tries to explain that he spends all day at work reading and writing things on a computer so hasn’t read a book since college. Not reading anything? Not even a “…I just started ” for conversations sake? Check please! Apparently I am one of the bitches the original article was about.

    I am far from the most well read person. But I love to read, I get a lot of pleasure from books. I’ve cried alone in the winter with Joyce and smirked, eaten chocolates and talked on the phone while reading trashy Shopaholic books. But do I need a man who has also read these? I think…no. Ideally I would like to date someone who can share a passion, one of mine happens to be reading. But really it is so we can talk about ideas! Otherwise we could simply exist on paper with matching lists of beloved novels on facebook or Personally, I like stimulating exchanges. And getting laid.

    Comment by Eileen — April 1, 2008 @ 7:53 pm | Reply

  3. Amen, sister(s).

    Rebecca: it’s true. I AM special. And you are even more so. Because you are the only girl I know who actually has a pony.

    Comment by echorogue — April 2, 2008 @ 12:47 am | Reply

  4. You’re perfectly correct—differences in taste in books and writing is just evidence of the many human facets each partner has. They can enjoy each other fully while still being aware of the differences.

    But differences in taste in food—that’s another matter! 🙂

    Comment by LeisureGuy — April 2, 2008 @ 4:07 am | Reply

  5. So true. God help the heathen bastard who insists that a Big Mac is a legitimate meal. When the righteous and pure know only In-N-Out can satisfy the deep craving for a drive-thru burger. Animal style.

    Comment by echorogue — April 2, 2008 @ 5:07 am | Reply

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