March 5, 2012

Bookworms can be shallow, too.

Reading is generally accepted as an intellectual and productive way to pass one's time, but those of us who do quite a bit of reading know that this isn't always the case. It can certainly be a wonderfully self-indulgent, epicurean pursuit...for why else would we do it as often as we do? I exploited this misconception when I was younger, when my parents were always more than happy to let me spend hours reading on the couch — even if I was just catching up with Elizabeth and Jessica of Sweet Valley High. On trips to the library, my dad let me load the bag up with whatever I wanted, whether it was R.L. Stine or Charles Dickens. Who cared? As long as it was a book. 

Now, I appreciate creative, literary genius as much as the next English major, but I have to admit that I can be very shallow about books, at least before I get to know them. I like to judge them by their covers, the font, the thickness of their pages, and sometimes even how they smell. I also find myself drawn to such trivial details as how many times the author mentions a favorite food of mine. The following two excerpts are taken from books that were average reads. And yet, the fact that they mentioned eggs somehow helped raise them in my eyes by, oh, half a star on a rating scale of 1 to 5. What can I say? Taste in books is very subjective.
"There," he said, handing it to Philip, "You can eat my top if you like."
Philip would have liked an egg to himself, but he was not offered one, so took what he could.
--Of Human Bondage, W. Somerset Maugham

When they got into the flat, Dud said he was so hungry he could eat the rocking horse — he began, indeed, to gnaw on it — and then suddenly everyone was starving, and Iris and Joyce were making toast and frying eggs in the kitchen: extraordinary eggs, which no sooner broke and were in the pan than they were cooked, so that even when they were dishing them up and handing them out (Joyce still with her cat gloves on) the girls were calling everyone to come and look at the extraordinary eggs that cooked in an instant. The eggs, taken into the lounge and eaten with salt and dry toast, seemed delicious.
--Everything Will Be All Right, Tessa Hadley

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