Saturday, March 29, 2008

Literary Dealbreakers

I love the NY Times Review of Books blog, Paper Cuts. I really do. They're just as obsessive compulsive about reading as I am. It sort of helps humanize a group of writers I would normally classify is way higher brow than myself.

In "Literary Dealbreakers" post, Rachel Donadio writes, "Suffice it to say that for those of us cursed with literary interests — and no small amount of intellectual snobbery — taste in books can have a limiting effect on our romantic lives."

I know what she means. I can tell you for certain, when I was dating, whether or not someone read was indeed a heavy-duty interest of mine. Now, I can't say that I would never date a non-reader, but it certainly earned a man brownie points if he was literary. Remember the Barrister I found on He had a woooonderful library, leather chair and all, and I was drooling before we even got to the homemade dinner of pork cutlets, honey mustard sauce and roasted root vegetables. Sadly, we all know he turned out to be Prince Charmingless, but at least I got to pet his books before things crashed and burned.

I've been with B. on and off for a long time now. We've known each other for almost ten years, and this is our second year of living together. While he is not the obsessive compulsive book hoarder and book reader that I am, he reads like a mofo. As much as I do, I'm sure. His proclivities tend toward any manner of news media online as well as a bunch of other sites that are tailored to his interests. We both keep our laptops in the living room, and many a cozy night has been spent in our respective chairs tapping away at the computer reading whatever we're most interested in. For that, I'm truly thankful. And the fact that he doesn't seem to mind--on the whole--the fact that I'm an obsessive book hoarder. He's a fan of gentle ribbing in regards to my leaning stacks, but he doesn't give me too hard of a time. If he did, then we'd have a literary dealbreaker on our hands.

Back to the article. Some of the comments were truly hilarious and ring a weeee (more than a wee, maybe) bit true.

"The dealbreaker? After dating a guy for the second time, trying to bring up the subject about my latest read and New Orleans literature a la the Tennessee Williams Festival going on, he says 'Oh, I don’t read. It’s a waste of time. I get most of what I need to know from my buddies and TV.' Damn, but he was sexy. Oh well. Can’t do, just can’t." --Lyne LeJeune

"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. "

...and my favorite...

"I just realized that I have Fight Club and Atlas Shrugged prominently displayed on my bookshelf, remnants of a jaded youth.

It looks like I have some reshuffling to do lest an anarcho-capitalist yuppie high-schooler fall madly in love with me. " — Posted by Michael

So, how about you? Any literary dealbreakers that come to mind?

On a wholly unrelated note, we went loafing yesterday just as I suspected. We ended up at a huuuge outlet mall complex with a bookstore! Of course, since I was saving $1 per book I had to buy two of them! I picked up:

  • What is the What, by Dave Eggers at the recommendation of my friend T. without whom I never would've read Cormac McCarthy. I trust his judgement even though the thought of Eggers titling his memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius makes my butt pucker and makes me never want to read Eggers at all. It might be ironic, but I'm not willing to find out at this point. Bring on the Lost Boys in What is the What, I say.
  • A Great and Terrible Beauty, by Libba Bray. This is one of Heather's recommendations, and she's my reading sooouuuulmate, so I had to give it a go. I've been lusting after it and trying to mooch it for a while now, but I can't ever get my paws on it. Can't wait to start. Oh, and Libba Bray has a great Livejournal blog that I've been reading for a while now. She's hilarious.

I also had The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, in my hot little hands, but I realized at the last minute that it was the large print edition, and I just can't do large print. For me, it's more distracting than teensy tinesy print.


  1. Interesting post, Andi. Boyfriend doesn't really read books. I mean, he reads the occasional one but I would say he reads like two a year, and doesn't complete them :) He does reads the Economist and news sites and all, though.

    When I was single I always dreamed of meeting a literary man. I dated one briefly but he always acted like he was better then me. Boyfriend may not be a heavy reader, but he is kind, intelligent and always up for stimulating intellectual conversation. He respects my strong interest in lit and lets me gab on and on about what I'm reading. And I really love him.

    Sorry for the sap! :)

  2. I honestly don't think I could date someone who doesn't read (or worse, thinks reading is stupid), in the same way I couldn't date someone who hates my dog or thinks spec fic is pointless. Reading is such a huge part of my life, and I'd want someone who could both understand and share that with me.

    My ex-husband wasn't a reader, and... well, you know how that worked out. ;)

  3. Well... I got married WAY too young to have considered such things and 26 years later, after I've read a gazillion books to my husband's six books (we just counted them together to provide accuracy here), I can say that there are other forms of communication in a marriage. He likes to listen to me drone on about literary stuff (or he pretends well) and I like to listen to him drone on about mechanical type stuff (or I pretend well). We both love history & science. He just watches Discovery & The History Channel while I read him passages from books. It's still working out for us.

    PS I've been reading you for some time under another name. My book blogs are new as I've tried to divorce them from my personal blog. Sometimes I cuss too much for a teacher ;-)

  4. I loved this! My husband does love to read but says himself he's forget to do it if I didn't stick books under his nose from time to time. That he lets me spend whatever small amount of money on books, and will sometimes put up bookshelves for me, stacks up the brownie points for him. I have to admit in my youth I longed to meet a literary type, but I never did. It's probably just as well: you can't have two unpractical people in a relationship - who would change the fuses in the plugs?

  5. Hmm... I wonder what my often awful taste in books says about me as a potential catch?

    I can't understand why so many men, in particular, just don't bother reading. With so many wonderful books published these days, you'd think there would be something out there they might like.

  6. I know how offputting that Dave Eggers title is, but the thing about him is that he really doesn't take himself all that seriously. I mean, he has a sense of humour, and he's not conceited like that title suggests. Also, he's quite good. I suspect that after reading some of his other work you'll want to give that book a chance.

    As for literary dealbreakers, I don't think I could ever truly feel close to someone who didn't understand my love of books. My boyfriend doesn't read quite as much as I do, but he does read, and, more importantly, he understands how excited I get about books, how obsessive-compulsive I am about my reading, how I'm addicted to challenges and all the rest. And he doesn't mind at all.

    PS: I LOVE your new banner!

  7. I love your new banner too. Really nice.

    Lucky me, my husband reads as much or maybe even more than I do. Our tastes differ somewhat; I read anything and everything, while he sticks to older books and classics. Strangely, for a male, he reads quite a bit of fiction. I couldn't have married someone who wasn't obsessed with books!

  8. When I was dating my husband, I was in college, so about the only thing I read at the time was textbooks.

    Now I read pretty voraciously, while he tends to be much pickier about his reading. He likes hardcovers, I like paperbacks.

    Sigh. At least we can both read some of the same books. When I finish a book I really like, I always try to make him read it. Sometimes it works. Lol

  9. I've dated readers and non-readers; as someone else said, there are other ways of communicating, and other things to talk about.

    The greatest love of my life was a dedicated non-reader who once said, after I had dragged him to a P.J. O'Roarke reading and signing, "That guy's funny; I should buy his book, I might read part of it."

    As for Eggers, AHWOSG made me want to kill myself, I just can't deal with the smug, "look how clever I am" tone he has.

  10. My last relationship was with someone who claimed to have only read 2 books since graduating. I should have known it was never meant to be.

    Would totally chat up anyone who reads Terry Pratchett -- because that indicate a sense of fun and a healthy sense of the absurd. These days I want to be with someone who can see the absurdity in life.

    Literary Dealbreakers -- anyone who says:
    "The Da Vinci Code is without a doubt, the best book ever written."
    "The V for Vendetta novel changed my life." Not the graphic novel mind you -- the FILM novelisation.
    "I live by Ayn Rand's philosophy."
    "What self-respecting adult reads comic books?"
    "I have no time for fiction because they are not real."

    People really DID say things like these.


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