Monday, March 31, 2008

Literary Taste and The Pushkin Problem

Monday, March 31, 2008

I could not resist quoting an essay I’ve read from the Times (It’s Not You, It’s Your Books by Rachel Donadio, 30 March 2008). Reading the first two paragraphs, I immediately thought to myself: oh lo, this is so me!

“Can you believe it!” she shouted into the phone. “He hadn’t even heard of Pushkin!”

We’ve all been there. Or some of us have. Anyone who cares about books has at some point confronted the Pushkin problem: when a missed — or misguided — literary reference makes it chillingly clear that a romance is going nowhere fast. At least since Dante’s Paolo and Francesca fell in love over tales of Lancelot, literary taste has been a good shorthand for gauging compatibility.”

These days, thanks to social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, listing your favorite books and authors is a crucial, if risky, part of self-branding. Sussing out a date’s taste in books is “actually a pretty good way — as a sort of first pass — of getting a sense of someone,” said Anna Fels, a Manhattan psychiatrist and the author of “Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women’s Changing Lives.” “It’s a bit of a Rorschach test.” To Fels, reading habits can be a rough indicator of other qualities. “It tells something about ... their level of intellectual curiosity, what their style is,” Fels said. “It speaks to class, educational level.”

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. It’s hard enough to find someone compatible based on the basics — looks, brains, interests, morals — without upping the ante with taste in books. Therein lies madness. Or maybe clarity.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

It clarity and not madness. Saying "this is so me" does not compute.

Angeli said...

meaning?

Anonymous said...

It simply does not compute.

Angeli said...

How and why do you say so?

Anonymous said...

It is for me to know and for you to find out. :)

 
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