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March 5, 2009 4:47 AM   Subscribe

You say Orwell, Tolstoy and Joyce, but actually it's Rowling and Grisham... Anyway if you are a chap, just make sure you put away that Clarkson before your date arrives.
posted by fearfulsymmetry (52 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
After trying to read Ulysses many years ago, I question the idea that anyone has read Joyce. Orwell, on the other hand, is very much worth reading.
posted by TedW at 5:11 AM on March 5, 2009


Now that was a bit crap, wasn't it?
posted by octobersurprise at 5:15 AM on March 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'll admit it. I didn't even read the FPP.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:40 AM on March 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mentions of Voltaire, Zorba and 'Any of the Russians' kind of raised a skeptical eyebrow. (Where were they interviewing, Kent or something?) Then mention of Mein Kampf suddenly leapt out behind the curtains in the middle of the article like a completely random Spanish Inquisition and at that point I basically couldn't go on.
posted by stelas at 6:03 AM on March 5, 2009


Women like a man who reads Thomas Pynchon and David Foster Wallace since carrying their books means they have upper body strength and will excel at manual labor, thus being good providers.
posted by jonmc at 6:11 AM on March 5, 2009 [8 favorites]


Who are these women and why were they taken seriously?

Men who read fiction are sexy.
posted by Grimble at 6:32 AM on March 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


I read Infinite Jest over several weeks' worth of work commutes, often during rush hour and having to stand; I remember my forearms were sore for a week after I finished.
posted by mannequito at 6:43 AM on March 5, 2009


When I worked in a chain bookstore, I once rang up a guy buying Infite Jest, Mason & Dixon and Delillo's Underworld all at once. I asked if he wanted a spotter to help him get to his car.
posted by jonmc at 6:45 AM on March 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


Man, it's so annoying how people will make assumptions about the classics without having read them. And it's a no-win situation. If you mention that you've read War and Peace, people will assume that you're either lying or an insufferable snob. Yet, if they actually took the time to crack it open, they'd see that it's essentially an easy read, only with lots of secondary characters and a few lengthy philosophical passages.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:51 AM on March 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


from the article
The question is, how do you pick the perfect book to confer the desired air of intelligence and approachability, not to mention the combined sex appeal of Brad and Angelina?
Just show up with the Kama Sutra. If your date doesn't run, should be a good night.
posted by mannequito at 7:04 AM on March 5, 2009


I've also found that if you're a scruffy-looking whiteboy publicly reading Catcher In The Rye, people give you lots of space.
posted by jonmc at 7:06 AM on March 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Here in the US, Eggers and Atwood may get you in the sack, but King and Archer will keep you warm at night.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:20 AM on March 5, 2009


According to a survey for the National Year of Reading, almost one in five people would read a book while waiting for their date to arrive in order to make a good impression.

Would they be wearing a fedora while doing this?

I often read while waiting for my date to arrive though, usually work-related stuff that's lying about in the car. She is impressed by my patience in wading through this bullshit.
posted by ghost of a past number at 7:22 AM on March 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


When did reading fiction become girly? I've seen this several places recently and it confuses the hell out of me.
posted by minifigs at 7:47 AM on March 5, 2009


I've been reading quite a lot of fiction these last few years, and I haven't become more girly.

Except for this pair of luscious breasts I've grown.
posted by Darth Fedor at 7:52 AM on March 5, 2009


Hey dude, nice boobs.
posted by jonmc at 7:54 AM on March 5, 2009


This may not be a literal double post, but it's an effective double -- the same idea's been posted at least once before. It's also dumb. I know what books I've read, okay, I'm not interested in knowing that some middle-brow fucks who supposedly represent me are lying about what they read.
posted by grobstein at 7:57 AM on March 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


When did reading fiction become girly?
Anecdote:
Reading groups (at least the ones I've been in or visited) seem to have an F:M ratio of at least 3:1

Anecdote, (via The New Yorker):
Ian McEwan and his younger son tried handing out novels in a nearby park. McEwan reported that “every young woman we approached . . . was eager and grateful to take a book,” whereas the men “could not be persuaded. ” Conclusion: “When women stop reading, the novel will be dead.”
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 8:09 AM on March 5, 2009


When did reading fiction become girly?

I made an FPP about this a few years back: (some) books are for girls.
posted by grobstein at 8:10 AM on March 5, 2009


Conversely: books you have read, but wouldn't own up to.
posted by Electric Dragon at 8:24 AM on March 5, 2009


Ian McEwan and his younger son tried handing out novels in a nearby park. McEwan reported that “every young woman we approached . . . was eager and grateful to take a book,”

The mere thought of Ian McEwan handing me a novel makes me starry-eyed.
posted by orange swan at 8:27 AM on March 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


After trying to read Ulysses many years ago, I question the idea that anyone has read Joyce.

After having read Ulysses a couple of times since college, I question the idea that claiming that Joyce is unreadable is a clever observation.
posted by scody at 8:41 AM on March 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


I just finished all of Stephanie Meyer's great works. Exquisitely nuanced dark fiction.
posted by bz at 9:07 AM on March 5, 2009


"Conversely: books you have read, but wouldn't own up to."

The shelf in the living room is primarily full of Hemingway, Steinbeck, Kipling, Melville and the like. I've read them all, several times. But the shelf in the basement office... that's where you find the majority of my sci-fi/fantasy hardcovers and paperbacks, and quite a large pile of Louis L'Amour to boot. I call it "junk food reading". I don't hide it all, really; some of the nicer books are upstairs, like my slipcover editions of Tolkien, but the shelf full of beat-up paperbacks just doesn't look as good as a line of "real" novels, does it?

There are more books printed every year than any of us could read in a lifetime. Given all the choices, I can fully understand why someone might not have read a book that I enjoyed. But I don't understand the desire to pretend to have read books. What does one gain from this? Take Moby-Dick for example. It's one of those books that everyone is supposed to read. But I wouldn't think any less of someone for not having read it. I would certainly find myself wondering about someone who pretended to have done so, if I found out they had lied. What if I innocently asked "what was your favorite chapter?"* The pretender is thus stuck, either having to admit to the lie or to make up some crap answer that leaves me wondering why it was so important to him or her to lie about it. I think that not being able to honestly say "Oh, I never read that book" says more about someone than the books he or she has read.

Don't make excuses. If all you like to read is trashy romance novels, well, say so, without shame. God knows enough of those sell every year, SOMEONE has to be reading the damn things.

*My favorite chapter is the bit where Melville does his tongue-in-cheek explanation of why a whale is a fish, while simultaneously pointing out all the reasons it can't possibly be one. The biologist in me loves that.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:15 AM on March 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Now I know why I don't get any dates. I read what I want to read, because I like it or I think I might like it. Not because I'm trying to impress anyone. Also, guys who read fiction are not 'girly'. It shows they know how to relax.

And what's up with the 'throw it in the bathtub' tip? Seriously, if you're tricking people into dating you by faking interest in something, doesn't that kind of defeat the whole purpose of finding a good match?
posted by sandraregina at 9:26 AM on March 5, 2009


I'd be much more interested in why someone's reading something or what they have to say about it, not so much about the actual book. There's a lot more to learn from it, even if they hate my favourite book or love the kind of thing I can't stand.

If someone wanted to talk to me critically and enthusiastically about Valley of the Dolls, they could pretty much have my heart in a ziploc bag if they wanted, and I doubt they'd be carrying it in their pocket to impress me. Ok, ok. I'm just throwing that out in hopes that Mefi as an entity might grant wishes occasionally.
posted by carbide at 9:38 AM on March 5, 2009


In the United States, at least, novelists are made and unmade, not by critical majorities, but by women, male and female. The art of fiction among us, as Henry James once said, "is almost exclusively feminine." In the books of such a man as William Dean Howells it is difficult to find a single line that is typically and exclusively masculine. One could easily imagine Edith Wharton, or Mrs. Watts, or even Agnes Repplier, writing all of them. When a first-rate novelist emerges from obscurity it is almost always by some fortuitous plucking of the dexter string...
- H. L. Mencken, 1917
posted by nasreddin at 9:42 AM on March 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wait wait wait a second. Are there any actual women who think that reading fiction is girly? I mean, other than that one nasty woman quoted in the article. Because fiction is basically all I read. In fact, I think I've read maybe 4 nonfiction books in the last year.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:42 AM on March 5, 2009


Or here's a better question - how many women, upon finding out that a guy read mostly (or exclusively) fiction, would be less likely to date said guy?
posted by Afroblanco at 9:43 AM on March 5, 2009


Afroblanco, look at it this way-- the ones who would be less likely are the ones you wouldn't want to date anyway. Let them weed themselves out of the pool.
posted by dersins at 10:28 AM on March 5, 2009


Conclusion: “When women stop reading, the novel will be dead.”

and
In the United States, at least, novelists are made and unmade, not by critical majorities, but by women, male and female. The art of fiction among us, as Henry James once said, "is almost exclusively feminine."

Well, the novel was initially largely geared towards middle- & upper-class women, as something to keep them occupied and well-behaved. And pretty much all of the best selling novelists were women, and I think they continue to be (shitty romance novels outsell just about everything, but no one pays attention to them because, well, they are shit).
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:39 AM on March 5, 2009


Ian McEwan and his younger son tried handing out novels in a nearby park. McEwan reported that “every young woman we approached . . . was eager and grateful to take a book,” whereas the men “could not be persuaded. ”

I'd like to see that experiment repeated with a young woman handing out the books.
posted by straight at 10:48 AM on March 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


I read almost exclusively serious literature, and I do it for fun.

Some writers, like Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Nabokov, George Eliot, TS Eliot, Beckett, Joyce and Kafka, give me pure pleasure, and I read them on the bus, in the park and on the toilet, for kicks.

There are other, well-respected, writers, such as Austen, Woolf, Bellow and Pynchon, who for mysterious reasons I find boring and don't read very often.

The trick is generally to read what you enjoy and avoid what you don't enjoy.

In terms of mating, it all works out anyway: literary types will attract literary types; sci-fi lovers will meet sci-fi lovers. Surely that is for the best, and no one is left pining for something else. Even the liars are accommodated in this: the kind of person who'd pretend to have read Joyce will attract that person with the unopened copy of Paradise Lost. Everyone wins.

Sometimes, as a present, I am given popular fictions books: detective novels, vampire tales. On average I enjoy these less than the books I normally read, but occasionally one will be enormously exciting, and I wouldn't be afraid to say that in public! But really, honestly, I read the books that I read because I like them! I am a lazy bum, and I find Chekhov easier to read than, say, Stephen King, who is boring and irritating to me. As I say, I read what thrills me and avoid what feels like a chore. I'm glad when others do the same.

I read almost exclusively serious literature, but when I am not reading serious literature I tend to be reading Spider-Man comics. What can I say?
posted by cincinnatus c at 12:50 PM on March 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am boggled by the idea of not reading 1984. It's an amazing book.

I don't really see the point in lying about your reading habits; I freely admit that I don't really like a lot of classic literature. Am I supposed to feel ashamed about that?
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:38 PM on March 5, 2009


One does not "read" James Joyce. One tiptoes through it, in confused, panicked discomfort, as one tiptoes through the contents of a huge box of spilled Lego in a dark, unfamiliar house. Do that enough times and you may find that the pieces embedded in your feet have now created something rudimentarily familiar - the chassis of a racing car, for example.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:47 PM on March 5, 2009


So in addition to my favourite band sucking, my favourite authors do too? Literature snobs are high-brow fashion-vegans.

Read whatever blows your skirt up. At the very least you can show that your attention span is longer than the next ad-break.
posted by ihunui at 4:21 PM on March 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can't say I buy that such a high percentage of people have lied about reading 1984. Has it occurred to anyone that a book worth lying about might actually be worth reading?
posted by dcams at 4:47 PM on March 5, 2009


I can't say I buy that such a high percentage of people have lied about reading 1984

I agree. They've definitely been lying about lying about having read 1984.
posted by dersins at 4:51 PM on March 5, 2009


I wondered if someone was going to post this.

I had no idea who this Clarkson person was, and so consulted the wiki:

Clarkson discussed a wide variety of topics, usually taking a cynical approach. A selection of chapter titles include[1]:

Another Day's Holiday? Please, Give Me a Break.
Men are a Lost Cause, and We're Proud of It.
Gee Whiz Guys, But the White House is Small.
Forget the Euro, Just Give Us a Single Socket.
America, Twinned with the Fatherland.
A Weekend in Paris, the City of Daylight Robbery.
They Speak the Language of Death in Basque Country.
The More We're Told the Less We Know.
Why Have an Argument? Let's Say It with Fists.


Why Have an Argument -- Let's Say It with Fists? Gold I say.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:54 AM on March 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


One does not "read" James Joyce. One tiptoes through it, in confused, panicked discomfort, as one tiptoes through the contents of a huge box of spilled Lego in a dark, unfamiliar house.

Yep, it's true. I mean, it's barely identifiable as English! Take this, for example:
The air of the room chilled his shoulders. He stretched himself cautiously along under the sheets and lay down beside his wife. One by one, they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age. He thought of how she who lay beside him had locked in her heart for so many years that image of her lover's eyes when he had told her that he did not wish to live.

Generous tears filled Gabriel's eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards any woman, but he knew that such a feeling must be love. The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself, which these dead had one time reared and lived in, was dissolving and dwindling.

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.
A box of spilled Legos indeed.
posted by scody at 1:40 PM on March 6, 2009


Be fair. Turgidalia may have over-generalized, but what you quoted is simply not what he was talking about.
posted by grobstein at 1:43 PM on March 6, 2009


I am being fair. When one speaks of "Joyce," one is speaking of a primary body of work that encompass four major texts: Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, and Finnegans Wake. (If you want to talk about a secondary body of his work, then you're talking about his poetry, play, letters, etc.) After 25 years of hearing snide remarks about the matter since the first time I read Dubliners in high school and got mocked by a family member, I have found that, generally speaking, people who make cartoonish announcements that Joyce Is Unreadable have either A) simply not read a sufficient amount of Joyce to assess his work meaningfully, or B) suffered a blow to their egos and not having been able to understand Ulysses right out the gate that they must console themselves with the thought that Joyce can't actually be read or enjoyed by anyone (and the corollary suspicion that those of us who do say we like Joyce are pretentious liars).

Dubliners and Portrait can be understood by a reasonably intelligent, literate teenager. With the assistance of a very enthusiastic Joyce scholar, I was able to read, understand, and profoundly enjoy Ulysses for the first time in college. I have never been able to make heads or tails out of more than a page or two of Finnegans Wake, but my personal inability to comprehend it doesn't lead me to deny the existence of readers and scholars who have.
posted by scody at 2:10 PM on March 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


guh, lest anyone think that I was going for a faux-Joycean style there, I hit "post" before I edited. Thus the last part of the first paragraph should read: suffered a blow to their egos at not having been able to understand Ulysses right out the gate, so that they must console themselves with the thought that Joyce can't actually be read or enjoyed by anyone (and the corollary suspicion that those of us who do say we like Joyce are pretentious liars).
posted by scody at 2:14 PM on March 6, 2009


Of course. My point was just that you read T.D. to mean something that he probably didn't, seemingly just to mock him. I think you're uncharitably lumping him in with the general run of people who assail Joyce's readability. Perhaps you are justifiably sensitive about this. But to me, it looked like he was just having fun, possibly in a way that was Joyce-positive, and certainly without the edge that you describe in your first paragraph. "Mocked," "snide," "pretentious liars" -- to my reading, T.D.'s remark shouldn't be grouped with the stuff you're talking about.

Could be wrong though.
posted by grobstein at 2:33 PM on March 6, 2009


But to me, it looked like he was just having fun, possibly in a way that was Joyce-positive,

Ah, on second reading, I will concede that this could very well be. My total lack of caffeine this morning may have rendered my humor filter off kilter.

OR ELSE YOU'RE ALL PHILISTINES YOU BASTARDS I HATE YOU not really
posted by scody at 3:37 PM on March 6, 2009


"Ulysses could have done with a good editor," Doyle told a stunned audience in New York gathered to celebrate the great man who is credited with inventing the modern novel.

"You know people are always putting Ulysses in the top 10 books ever written but I doubt that any of those people were really moved by it."

"I only read three pages of Finnegans Wake and it was a tragic waste of time," he added. Dubliners was Joyce's best work, but Ulysses was undeserving of reverence.


Booker prize winner Roddy Doyle.
posted by TedW at 6:49 PM on March 6, 2009


Roddy Doyle? Uff. Now that's someone who knows from unreadable.
posted by scody at 8:35 PM on March 6, 2009


spoiler alert on the Dead, there, scody. tsk.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:05 PM on March 6, 2009


spoiler alert on the Dead...

Please don't tell me Jerry dies at the end! On a more serious note, I shouldn't have been so snarky right off the bat. I obviously think Joyce is overrated, but that is just my opinion. I also think Citizen Kane, Louis Armstrong, and NASCAR are overrated, while John Waters languishes in (relatively) undeserved obscurity. On the other hand, Orwell's writing speaks very much to the political concerns we have today and to me seems relevant even when he writes about Burma in the 1920s. Tolstoy I am agnostic about, but I am sure my wife the Russian history major would be happy to speak to his strengths and weaknesses.

To get back to the subject of the post, we actually got together thanks to Atul Gawande, so there's no telling what books stir up a little romance.
posted by TedW at 10:38 PM on March 6, 2009


spoiler alert on the Dead...

What? I left out the part about "Rosebud" actually being Gabriel's sled.

oops
posted by scody at 6:15 PM on March 7, 2009


Brooker
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:48 AM on March 9, 2009


From the Brooker link:

Apparently people lie about having read all these books because they think it'll make them appear sexier. Which begs the question: who the hell earnestly believes...

I think he's trolling us.
posted by ghost of a past number at 5:01 AM on March 9, 2009


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