I don’t read the New York Times Book Review as much as I’d like these days, but I did come across this essay from this weekend’s edition on their website. Rachel Donadio explores relationships that have been ended on account of different literary tastes. She gives many examples of people who have blamed breakups on the fact that their significant other never heard of Pushkin, or liked Ayn Rand, or in the case of Augusten Burroughs, enjoyed Proust by Samuel Beckett:
The author recalled a date with one Michael, a “robust blond from Germany.” As he walked to meet him outside Dean & DeLuca, “I saw, to my horror, an artfully worn, older-than-me copy of ‘Proust’ by Samuel Beckett.” That, Burroughs claims, was a deal breaker. “If there existed a more hackneyed, achingly obvious method of telegraphing one’s education, literary standards and general intelligence, I couldn’t imagine it.”
So how important is it in a relationship that you share a taste in literature? Not very important, I’d say. And this is coming from someone who reads more books than almost everyone I know.
I agree that if you like reading, it’s nice to be with someone that also enjoys reading. However, I do not think the genre of books is really that important to have as a shared interest. It’s important to me that anyone that I’m close with (friends included) have actually read books, but it’s not as important that they have the same taste as I do. Maybe this is because I feel reading is a very personal thing, with so many genres and points of view out there to quench anyone’s literary taste, it’s almost impossible to find (and fall for) someone who is going to love the books you love, and hate the books you hate.
I’ll admit I’m a bit of a book snob, I tend to turn my nose up at those mass market books that usually end up at the top of the NYT Best Seller list (not all, but some), but I can’t imagine ending a relationship with someone because they enjoy those books. That’s just silly.
Marco Roth, an editor at the magazine n+1, said: “I think sometimes it’s better if books are just books. It’s part of the romantic tragedy of our age that our partners must be seen as compatible on every level.”
This brings up a good point that I could tie back to a previous post, in which Atlantic writer Lisa Gottleib is 40 and single, and I hypothesize that her and her friends might have ended relationships on frivolous things. His favorite book was The Da Vinci Code and she loved Pride and Prejudice, perhaps?
For those people interviewed that claimed they ended a relationship based on the others “poor” literary tastes, there must have been another reason, or else they are just so pretentious that who would want to date them, anyway? Author Ariel Levy says that finding someone who shares your taste in books is considered a “luxury,” and I think she puts it best when she says your goal should be “to find somebody where your perversions match and who you can stand.”