Friday, July 13, 2012

why the f*ck friday (10)

Welcome to WTFF. In which I attempt to answer a single question--normally a thought on a book or a bookish subject--that I've been pondering for the past week. This week it's "why the f*ck won't you go away so I can talk about books?"

Whenever I meet another reader I instantly wonder about their bookish habits. The questions start next. We all do it. We try to get to know one anotherr: do you dog ear pages? Do you use one particular bookmark? Kindle or Nook?

Some of these questions are almost like asking a person what their favorite sports team is--the other ones are like asking "Chinese or Mexican?" The real deal with this is anyone who witnesses the transaction. You know what I'm talking about. That one person who's confused as to who Suzanne Collins is, or who doesn't understand the difference between mystery and horror. 

There's always that one person there during the meeting between two readers who is trying to figure what the heck is going on. They might even exclaim: "I have no idea what you guys are talking about..." And then remove themselves from the conversation.

A List of Bookish Questions Asked and Their Real World Translations:

"Do you read a lot?" 
Translation: "I want to get to know you. Do we have anything in common?"

"What do you like to read?" 
Translation: "Do you like Mexican food or Chinese food more? What's your opinion on Thai?"

"I try to keep my books pristine." 
Translation: "My apartment is really clean."

"I love Neil Gaiman." 
Translation: "Beards are cool."

Can you tell I've had this problem before? Clearly talking about books with someone in front of someone else can be tricky. It immediately excludes them from the conversation. So to include them in the conversation you have to stop talking about books. When all you really wanted to do was talk about books. You've just met another reader! This is a rarity these days. It's doubleplusgood if the other person likes the same authors and books as you. 

So that means it's doubleplusbad when the other person interrupts and changes the topic of the conversation. It isn't rude--it's natural. This person is being excluded. You feel bad for it. You include them again. Then the chances are you never get to have that great conversation you've been aching for. Even worse is the guilt. 

I propose we stop feeling guilty when this happens. The bookish types can be shy and compromising sometimes. We understand that a lot of people don't love what we love so we compromise. Well, f*ck that. I have to withstand constant talk of baseball and football (neither of which I understand).

So the next time this happens:

Me: I love reading.
Them: Oh me too! I like Neil Gaiman!
Me: Have you read American Gods?
Friend: .....
Them: Yes! That is my favorite book!
Friend: Have you guys seen Spider-Man 3 yet?
(the conversation is now about Spider-Man)

I'm doing this:

Me: I love reading.
Them: Oh me too!
Friend: ....
Me: Shut the fuck up. You got to talk about football yesterday for 20 minutes.
(the conversation is now about books)

Problem solved. 

That's it for this week's why the f*ck friday. Different opinion? Similar experience? Similar thoughts on this subject? Post it below in the comments. Feel free to berate me, praise me, or buy me some fancy coffee. You can even tell me to f*ck off and then buy me a coffee. I enjoy hearing the bookish and nerdy thoughts of others.  


  1. Social niceties are, well, nice, most of the time, so it's kind of hard to get on board with this idea in a general sense. And I'm lucky to be surrounded by bookish people and to also have a wealth of pop culture to draw on when the book talk grows thin. I get that it is nice gor (generally) shy folk to find someone with whom they can share their nerdy passions IRL (blogs are great and Twitter messages fun and I really enjoy them, but they're not the same as a real heart-to-heart convo). I am, of course, all for bringing literary culture out into daily culture and popular culture and shaking sports from its position perceived conversational common denominator.

    1. I see that have erred on the side of bad manners. I am just now coming to this conclusion. I should've thought this one out more.

    2. Eh, not necessarily. Sometimes people are real jerks and only respond to blunt action. Like I said, it's hard to respond generally to this, but I can definitely think of specific circumstances where such action is warranted. Also, I tend towards the passive-aggressive in my unpleasant dealings, which isn't any better.

      More importantly, this is a good conversation here. And this is a blog, not your set-in-stone manifesto. Thinking about what we do and (if needed) changing or adapting is way more important than getting it right the first time.

      Some day, I may even believe that for myself. ;-)

  2. It’s funny that you bring this topic up, because a friend of mine and I were hanging out at a bookstore earlier this week, and we had a conversation about how lucky we are to have been born into families that read, and to have friends that read. She and I also discussed how it would be difficult to be a book lover if no one around you shared that passion – or at least supported it in you. (Off topic, but while we were perusing the YA section, we overheard a conversation between a girl and her mom. The girl was picking up her summer reading and had a complete fit because Ender’s Game is over 300 pages and she was certain that it would destroy her life to have to read that much. Is this what most people are like in the world? Among other things, I wanted to tell her that I had to read Ivanhoe and Dickens for summer reading, so clearly her school was going easy on her).

    Although most people I know are Readers, it’s not often that we are reading the same books as each other, so we don’t frequently have deep conversations about them (sometimes we do, but not a lot). But it’s that we know how to talk in general about books, or listen politely about other people’s current reads. And - What are you reading now? - is a perfectly acceptable conversation starter. Like in your conversation above, I have never read American Gods or anything else by Neil Gaiman (I have seen Coraline though), but I would still be interested in what you had to say about it. Because in my opinion, every time I talk with someone about a book they love is the possibility that I will find my new favorite story.

    Of course my reply doesn’t help your situation much. Do you have reader friends that you hang out with? Maybe you need to go out one on one with Them and drop Friend (why are they part of this conversation in the first place? Where are you meeting these people?).

    1. I would have loved for Ender's Game to of been my summer reading. Talk about coasting through a course.

      I was not born into a very literature friendly family. My sister reads some. My mother reads some. I am the one who reads a lot. Although, since my mother had gotten older she has been reading as much as she used to.

      Ah. But you do know about Neil Gaiman. That's the whole thing right there. You're proving my point, Lauren.

      I have absolutely no reader friends. I got all excited once because a coworker mentioned H.P. Lovecraft. Turns out H.P. Lovecraft is all he's read. I'm okay with this.

    2. "I have absolutely no reader friends." This statement makes me sad for you. Though I suspect that it is harder for guys to find friends who read, than it is for girls. Reading seems to be less of an acceptable form of fun for guys. If you don't like organized sports (I don't blame you - ick!). And none of your friends read, I hope you have some other awesome thing in common with them.

      If you want reader friends, I guess you have two options
      1. Find new friends
      2. Turn your current friends into readers
      Neither is a particularly easy task. Good Luck!

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks guys. I feel really bad when no one comments. Idk if I'm the only blogger who experiences this or not.

  4. None of my friends, family, or people I am forced into association with by social obligation are interested in books. I got excited when I heard someone talking about Harry Potter, but was disgruntled when said person thought that Breaking Dawn was the prequel.

    1. How could someone even get those confused? One is British and has wizards, the other one has American vampires. A completely different set of actors... that's... how do you get those confused at all?

  5. Firstly I must say that Neil Gaiman and American Gods are amazing. Jacquel and Mr. Ibis are my favorite characters.

    No one in my family were really big readers ether. I was mostly the little freak that loved books. (Ah, rural country life). Though my grandmother who wasn't a reader herself saw that I loved books and thankfully nurtured the habit.

    I agree in part with a comment above in sorts. Instead of dropping a friend perhaps you could compartmentalize friends in a way? You could have reading friends and friends with other common interests. For example, I have reader friends, history/political friends, Sherlock/Doctor Who friends.

  6. Wait... where do you MEET these people who read? And how do I find them? Secret underground fight club-like meetings?

    I finally found a reading friend but we're both so busy that book conversations come up rarely. It probably doesn't help that there are very few books we've both read.


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