Monday, July 07, 2008

Married woman seeks 325 pages of prose for discreet weekend dalliances

This may be admitting to a psychosis, but I tend to relate to books as if they were people. When a book is good for the first 275 pages and then completely falls apart at the end, I feel as though it has betrayed me. “You made me think you were a modern American classic!” is pretty much akin to finding out my date with the PhD from Stanford had only driven through Stanford and actually it wasn’t even Stanford. It was Stamford. Yes, the one in Connecticut.

And when a book is good, I want to be its BFF beyond forever. “Les Miserables” and I could grow old together, rocking on the front porch of some stately old home, swapping stories and talking about how awesome Jean Valjean is.

This is why I wish there was a dating service for books. I get cold feet trying to find something new to read. Walking into a bookstore is like walking into a party alone when really, I’d just rather be sitting on the couch with people I already know. I’m comfortable at home with my Dorothy Parkers and my Fitgeralds and Carvers. The trouble is though, what with being dead and all, they’re not producing much new work. I’m forced to find new meat. But what if I pick up a book and what I thought was clever prose actually turns out to be painfully pretentious prose – the literary equivalent of giving me the clap on page 278? What if I buy something with a shiny cover and find out it’s dumb as a brick? What if I pick up “Midnight’s Children” and get stuck talking to Salmon Rushdie all night? (If he gets cheese in his beard, do I tell him?)

I wish I could just sign up for a service and tell a computer what my likes and dislikes are: I’m a Capricorn with a passion for spare ribs, Anne Tyler and epic poetry. Post-modern fiction need not apply. And then the computer coughs up a reading list for me, guaranteed to please or my money back.

Once you pick up a book, there is an implied commitment, just like when a guy takes you out to dinner and you order a $20 entrĂ©e, there’s the implication you’ll at least stay through the $10 dessert and then ask to be taken home because you feel gassy. I don’t want to make that kind of commitment with just any book. I want something that’s going to hold my attention past the colorful cover, past the first few pages and the first few character introductions. I’m in dire need of a book that’s going to put my heart to racing at least a few times and make me want to scribble things like “Liz + One Hundred Years of Solitude 4 EVER” on my notebooks.

And yet, I have no idea how to make that choice. In the past, I was a mass shopper – just grab a bunch of books and hope for the best. I was, in short, a brazen book whore. But now I just don’t find the same satisfaction in doing that. I want to cut to the chase and find a good book on my first go-around. I don’t have time to dilly dally or fuss with inferior products. This cougar ain’t getting’ any younger.

So, until the day someone invents a literary dating service, I’m afraid I’ll just be spending a lot of time browsing, hoping against hope I can find at least one book that thrills me enough to not only give it my real name but also call it back in the morning.

15 comments:

Mickie Poe said...

I have two ways around Blind Book Dating. One is to read the reviews my friends give their books on Goodreads.com and choose a title that way. The other way I avoid the trauma of Bad Book Regret is to get the book through the library first. If I dig it, I return it and go buy myself a copy I can write "I <3 U" all over. Now, tell me how to avoid Blind Music CD Regret!

Beth said...

I was in a very similar mood about books - not finding anything really worth my while - until last week. I know they seem girly and the writing isn't the best, but the Twilight series (Stephanie Meyers) totally sucked me in. Very fun to read.

Anna van Schurman said...

How about Bit o' Lit? Will that help?

Jen said...

This website is worth a try
http://www.literature-map.com/
You can type in an author and it shows you potentially similar authors.

One of my favorite living authors, Diana Gabaldon (who writes well-researched historical fiction/romance with elements of mysteries and sci fi in some of the books) has a link on her webpage of authors she enjoys.

The Modern Gal said...

I think you've found your calling in life: literary dating service madam.

Lisa said...

There are literary dating services out there! Check your local public library (the website or ask the librarians) or google "reader's advisory" or "what to read next". My local public library gets you to fill out this massive online form with info about your likes and dislikes etc, and then the librarians generate a list of recommended books! Now that's service!

Stephanie said...

I know exactly what you mean. I've been telling everyone recently how let down I was by Neil Gaiman's "Stardust." No one seems to get how it feels like betrayal.

Don't know how you feel about historical fiction, but Rosalind Miles (I will read anything from her now) put out a great trilogy reimagining the Arthurian legends from Guenevere's point of view. Take a look - you might like it.

Miss Grace said...

How have I gotten around this problem? I surround myself with friends who are braver readers than I, and let them filter out the trash for me. Sure, I don't usually get anything hot of the presses, but I also haven't been sucked into reading vapid nonsense.

Marcie said...

This entry, and the one about make-up make you my hero. This is my new favorite blog.
I have heard that Librarything.com is pretty awesome, although I never have had enough time to sit down and enter in all my likes to find recommendations.

Hope said...

Try Patrick Rothfuss' "The Name of the Wind."

My vote for least disappointing book of all time.

Kathe said...

Take a look on Facebook as well for people who have Books iRead. There are a ton of reviews from people that should help sort out the trash from the treasure. I've had a bout of failed readings lately and I was getting desparate. I have 2 recommendations for you: the new David Sedaris "When You Are Engulfed in Flames" and "Crazy Aunt Purl: Drunk, Divorced and Covered in Cat Hair" by Laurie Perry (she has a website too: www.crazyauntpurl.com) - Happy Reading!

Liz said...

Thanks everyone for all these great websites to check out for book reviews and such. I'll definitely check them out and hopefully, I'll find some good tomes to help me get over my reading malaise.

Mickie, I'm totally with you on the library front. Where I used to live, we had an awesome library and I was there every weekend. When we moved, I ended up with a crappy community library that I don't think has purchased a new book since LBJ was in office. I haven't been back there in a while, though, so maybe they've changed. I should give them another chance. It's what Jesus' librarian would want me to do. :)

Jen said...

There is a "dating service" for books - although it's more of a "rental service" for books. They market themselves as "NetFlix for books." It's www.bookswim.com. For $25 a month you build your book queue and they send them to you, you read and return. If you read 30 pages and hate it - no worries, you didn't buy it! I totally love them!

Lisa said...

I'm adding another "amen" to ask your public librarian: readers' advisory is a big part of what we do!

If they let you down, at least ask if the library subscribes to the online database NoveList: it lets you start from a book you like, click a few details, then suggests books.

Alice said...

I'm in agreement on how hard it is to find interesting books to read. Probably my favorite books in the last 3 or 4 years have been the Neal Stephenson baroque trilogy. I'm still shocked he could write such a cool series of books on the birth of the Eurpoean Monetary System.
I've also subscribed to the Tor newsletter, and they send a pdf of a book every so often. Some of them are not great but several have been pretty interesting, and I think they're getting better.


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