Literary Deal Breakers

In this essay, a writer discusses how we tend to judge people by the books they read. In my life, this is certainly true, although I don’t think I’ve broken up with anyone on that basis. The essay is full of book snobs recounting how disgusted they were upon discovering that a suitor was reading Ayn Rand, or even worse.

It’s pretty stupid when you read about it, and now I’m regretting my snobbery. One guy in the essay is repelled by anyone who claims to be reading Samuel Beckett. But Beckett is so good! Why shouldn’t one be allowed to read him without being considered an asshole?

Personally, I hold my greatest contempt for anyone who even talks about reading Ulysses. I know they’ve never read it, or else they tried and failed. I’m not crazy about anyone who loves Cormac McCarthy, but I’m aware that some otherwise great people appear to worship him. People who read or mention Anais Nin are also a red flag. It makes me feel sad for them.

The people in this essay seem to feel superior to everyone whose taste isn’t as highbrow as their own, but that is a problem for anyone trying to maintain their sense of elitist entitlement. For me, it’s a distrust of pretentiousness. Even a whiff of it will annoy me. At the same time, I would be hesitant about anyone who reads best-sellers.

I’ve solved this problem somewhat by not reading any more. I still buy books, but I have no attention span. I read book reviews and feel nostalgic about the transcendent pleasure of good fiction.

I recently found my self pretending to know the works of Gogol, rather than admit my ignorance. I feel I should get credit for Gogol, since I’ve read my share of Tolstoy. And I once became infatuated with someone because he loved “The Pigeon” only to find out later that he’d never read it.

I worry that I may be losing my edge, since I’m not as disdainful as the book snobs in the essay. I used to ruin many a dinner party by arguing about books. However, I do think it’s funny that there’s a dating site for fans of Ayn Rand. Ugh! They deserve each other!

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