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 entrée, 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.