June 19, 2005

If U cn rd ths, U cn rd a book. By 1 2day.

One of the best posts on the subject of readers is flea's recent discussion of how we don't "get" non-readers. It makes me think of a question I posed a while back: I can have sex with a Republican, but a relationship with a neo-con worshipper? I think not. Same goes for readers vs. the video seduced -- your basic TV watcher, in other words.

I browse the bookshelves of any house I visit, and am constantly surprised to discover a)in lieu of books, I see movie adaptations by the dozen on DVD, b) the shelves are solely devoted to paperback sci-fi, fantasy, romance novels, New York Times best-selling self-help books, diet/exercise/sports or other genre books, or c) the only shelf is in the kitchen, holding cookbooks and travel-related reading.

I do think all of these items have a place. It is simply that, with the exception of travel books and cookbooks, none of them remotely hit any zone of interest I may have. I do not recall reading a self-help book in the last 20 years, and I can't say I think I've missed anything.

When you are a houseguest, and the best sustained narrative title belongs to The Joy of Cooking, you are in for a weekend of complimenting the cook and asking questions about dishes you don't want to know the recipes or ingredients for. If you are lucky, you'll get to pick wild raspberries, one of my favorite fruits.

This is not to say I want to deconstruct Hegel in a graduate-level seminar setting over breakfast, or any other meal. I just need some sense that I am a guest in a house where we can all pick a section of the Sunday paper and turn the deck into a reading room, where I don't hear lengthy conversations about watering the vegetable garden with a new sprinkler system and how hard it is to get good help.

In the cookbooks-only household in which I grew up, dinner table conversation could become very tricky if it veered toward the personal. This may explain why we had so many dinner parties, arenas where you wanted light-hearted topics safe for chattering between courses. (No politics, no religion, no sex, and no money.)

In my family, circa 1980, the safe topics were recipes, frequent flyer mileage competitions, travel sagas, and the ever popular fall-backs, weather and traffic. Movies and theater were other plausible subjects, but I don't recall anyone even comparing a book with its Hollywood adaptation.(Bookshelves serving their original purpose were the ones in my room, filled with fiction and biography, in rows two-books deep.)

My family didn't judge a book by its cover -- it never bothered to look for one.

But I am a firm believer in the idea that you are what you read. Just don't let me near your medicine chest, because I also think your medical supplies tell as much about you as the books that you display.


Blogger GuusjeM said...

Well, I do have one floor to ceiling bookcase filled with cookbooks..but then 5 others filled with many and assorted other books (most of it kid lit, which I collect)

9:41 PM  

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