Wednesday, March 12, 2008

#1 Book Slut

All right, I’ve said it before, but I guess it’s about time I really came out and confessed: I’m a total book slut. Whore. World's #1. Call me whatever you want. I’ve got a feeling there are others out here in cyberspace, because the webzine Bookslut seems to be quite successful, and judging by the growing number of (little black, I’m sure) book blogs out here, I know I’m not the only one who keeps track of her conquests. However, I'm pretty sure no one is as bad as I am.

I’m not proud of this fact, you know; I didn’t even own up to it until I was nearly thirty. When I was in college, it was really bad, and I can remember many a time hiding the fact that I'd spent my Christmas break with, say, A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy rather than Ulysses. I really do wish I could be the book connoisseur so many of my friends seem to be, and I’m still not extremely comfortable stating what I am in mixed company. I like to pretend I’m not quite so indiscriminating. I’d like others to think I’m perfectly capable of resisting a tantalizingly handsome package of bound pages.

All the symptoms are there, though. I’ll never forget when I closed the cover on Crime and Punishment. I swore to myself I was never again going to read anything that wasn’t at least as powerful, well-written, and significant. My days of sleeping around with no-good trash were over. No more would I cheapen my body and soul with the literary equivalent of Swedish fish. I went to Border’s with my list of significant works in hand, and there, front and center as I walked through the door, was Tom Corcoran’s Mango Opera. His cover was so cool. At first, I was just flirting with him a little, but then I invited him to come join me for a cappuccino at the café. From there, it was really easy to convince him to come home with me.

A couple of weeks later, after running off to the library to pick up a few more mysteries, whose names I don’t even remember, I had a bad taste in my mouth. I felt empty. What was I doing? I called my old friend The Cider House Rules. When he started hitting on me, I told him I wasn’t really in the mood, but boy did I need some of his substance. I didn’t plan to take him on a scuba diving vacation to Bonaire with me, but then I realized I really needed and wanted him. You know, sometimes you just have to bring a tried-and-true friend to bed with you. He was a little miffed, I think, when I spent quite a bit of time hanging out at the hotel’s lending library and even brought a few interesting-looking books back to our room with me, but he forgave me. After all, he’s a good, understanding friend.

So, you see, no matter how much I want to change, want to be a real book connoisseur, want to be able to say things like, “Oh, I would never bring a contemporary novel or a mystery or (God forbid) some chick lit into my house. It’s 18th-and-19th-century or nothing (and preferably first editions) for me,” I just can’t. Yes, I may wake up many a morning regretting what I’ve done, but I have no ability to quit leaping into bed with Tom (Brown), (Deadeye) Dick, and Harry (Potter) when they cross my paths, first edition or not. Most of them don’t leave me longing for their phone calls after they’ve left, the way I wait with high hopes for Don Quixote to return my calls (who, of course, will never call, because he knows I’m nothing but a slut and thinks he’s not all that special to me), but that doesn't stop me. I know this is no way to behave if I want a real relationship, but I just can’t help myself.

Others seem concerned for me. I think they’d like to see me settle down. They give me classics and first editions as gifts. They encourage me to try at least to keep myself to only one book at a time. I’m hopeless when it comes to this. I can be deeply immersed in giving my whole heart and soul to The Innocence of Father Brown, but then I’ll put him down to go out to the kitchen, walk by The Moon and Sixpence, looking so attractive, and I find I just have to ask him to come out to the kitchen with me while I wait for the kettle to boil. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to tie myself down to only one at a time.

Well, you know, it’s not my fault, really. I’m sure any good psychologist would tell you my parents created this slut. What else could I possibly have become growing up in an old farmhouse full of bookcases in every nook and cranny? And it’s not exactly like they were the most chaste of beings when it came to spending hours in bed, pages spread wide, right in front of me. I know it’s less fashionable these days to blame parents for all woes, but in this instance, it makes perfect sense not to be able to think of anyone else to blame. A child would have to be awfully tough not to be affected by such an environment, either following in her parents’ footsteps or swearing off books for life.

Oh, hold on, there’s the phone. Caller ID says it’s an “unknown number.” My heart just went pitter-pat. You don’t think it could possibly be One Hundred Years of Solitude after all these years, do you?

26 comments:

musingsfromthesofa said...

Over here at the glass house, I'm not throwing any stones. Alas how many mornings have I woken up, averted my eyes from the trash beside me and hoped it would disappear while I'm in the shower?

Great post, Emily!

Yogamum said...

I thought I was the #1 book slut, but I think you may have me beat. Ever since I dropped out of grad school, I have discovered the thrill of reading everything from chick-lit to the classics.

And you know what? Sometimes if I don't like a book, I don't even finish reading it...shhh....

mandarine said...

What you need is Mark Twain's Puddnhead Wilson or Leo Toltoy's Anna Karenina disguised as new novels from fashionable authors, with a cool cover design, and a lot of praise from famous critics on the back cover, conspicuously displayed near the counter with a big 'just out' sign, instead of tucked away on the remote and dusty 'classics' shelf with just their spine to the world.

Emily Barton said...

MFS, Oh yes, why don't they ever disappear while you're in the shower? No, instead, they show up front and center on your coffee table just when you've invited someone over you most want to impress with your literary knowledge.

YM, isn't it fun to leave school and to discover, "Hey, I can read WHATEVER I want?" Oh yeah, and, "I don't have to finish anything I don't want to."

Mandarine, perfect solution! I've found occasionally, usually when they've been off to Hollywood, some of those classics do show up dressed in finer covers, but not often enough.

j.c. montgomery said...

Too freakin' funny. And, uh, too close to home.

And nope, that wasn't me in the back of the book shop, over in the corner, on the floor, oblivious to the world around her, nose deep in a Lemony Snicket book.

Nope wasn't me.

Eva said...

You made me laugh so hard!!! I'm not very discriminating either. ;) Though I will say, I am picky about my mysteries.

litlove said...

Hilarious as ever, Emily! You're in good company, though: there's a quote from P G Wodehouse that I read once and could never track down again that went something like: 'There are so many fine, important literary works to read, but just as I start to reach for one, my eye falls on the latest Agatha Christie.....'

Emily Barton said...

JC, oh yes, hiding out in a corner somewhere with Lemony Snicket. Perfectly understandable.

Eva, I do tend to eye mysteries a little more suspiciously than others, but it doesn't stop me from picking them up.

Litlove, well, if I'm in company with the likes of P.G. Wodehouse then I'm going to stop being so ashamed.

bookcrazy said...

Well, brilliantly executed. I think I have wanted to say what you have said here for quite sometime but was never able to put it this way. If I had tried, it would have failed.

In my dealing with this same problem, I have decided that one must go with the flow. I have a friend and guide (very senior to me) whom I saw once carrying some ten books for a 3 day business trip. I asked him and he said "You never know what you may want to read". That stuck with me.

The point is if you love reading, read. Don't impose restrictions on yourself. I have seen my average reading speed having increased tremendously following this method. So much so that I take reading a Roth or a contemporary Markus Zusak as a 'break'. And more times than not, they turn out to be more fun and no less enriching. e.g. I found Markus Zusak's The Book Thief was a profound book and great fun. I had picked it as a break.

Happy reading!

ZoesMom said...

Brilliantly put!

I had a very similar experience to Yogamum -- the day I quit grad school was the day I discovered a magical place known as Half Price Books. There I re-discovered my love of reading -- taking home whatever looked appealing and constantly going back for more. I stopped thinking about what I "should" be reading and decided to only read what I wanted to read -- literary snobs be damned.

Dorothy W. said...

Great post! As all your commenters show, however, you may not be so alone in this ...

Susan said...

Great post is right! I ended up doing one on my blog too - http://susanflynn.blogspot.com/2008/03/are-you-book-slut.html
just because it was irresistible and like some of your commentators have said, they are book sluts too! I linked your blog to mine so others could read your bookslut entry, it is so perfect!!!!

Charlotte said...

Me too, sluttery of the worst kind. Though I've had a rest from chicklit lately - maybe I need to go back there.

Julie P. said...

It's so glad to know that I'm not alone with my vice!

Emily Barton said...

BC, oh I'm quite familiar with the ten books for a three day business trip phenomenon. And I don't suppose you'd mind if invited The Book Thief over to my place for a little fun, would you?

ZM, yes, "literary snobs be damned." They're so tiresome in their righteousness, aren't they? And I bet we sluts are having much more fun.

Dorr, it seems I'm in absolutely superb company!

Susan, bet you didn't know we sluts could blush! Thanks for the praise.

Charlotte, more proof that we were separated at birth.

Julie, see how much company we have?

jenclair said...

:) I'm a slut with a guilt complex. I read for escape and entertainment with abandon and then choose something more serious. Like eating dessert for days, then a big helping of vegetables. This is a result of my father's mandate: "No more Nancy Drew without something worthwhile." My library books were then monitored, and I discovered I actually love nonfiction.

Courtney said...

Hmm. I almost think I could rival you for your title. Surprise, surprise, right? But I don't care...there is nothing like making love to a good mystery novel - arguably, I'd take it over the tried and true, every. single. time.

heather (errantdreams) said...

Oh my goodness, I'm right there with you! I can read a novel a day, easy, when I'm in the mood, and I'll go from SF to fantasy to romance to erotica to mystery to thriller in a heartbeat.

Kim L said...

Is it sad that sometimes I don't mind being a bookslut? Sometimes I'm exceeding proud of my intimate knowledge of Grisham and Crichton. Sometimes chick lit positively makes me shiver.

Emily Barton said...

Jenclair, no more guilt! You're certainly allowed to eat dessert first if you'd like.

Court, I had a feeling you and I could be "title-of-this-post rivals."

Heather, "variety is the spice of life," huh?

Kim, not sad at all. I'd much rather hang out with book sluts than book snobs anyday.

Bookie said...

I'm a big ol' book whore too, I sleep with everyone. Well, just about everyone, except James Patterson because he has the clap.

Emily Barton said...

Bookie, well, I've even slept with James Patterson...before he had the clap. I heard the rumors, and his number is no longer in my little black book.

raych said...

Man, I HEAR you! I keep asking myself, why do I let myself be swayed by all the heart-breakers out there? Why don't I just settle down with something solid and literary? Because I like good old Charlie Dickens, and I like John Irving, but I've been known to paw at some John Grisham if someone else brings him into the house. And (it embarasses me to admit this) I've even spent some time with the ladies - Sophie Kinesella, Mary Roach. This is awkward. I need to go.

Emily Barton said...

Raych, oh yes, I've spent plenty of time with the ladies myself.

Darcie said...

Love it! I have to say the I am there with you...too many people to count!

Emily Barton said...

Darcie, boy, it's amazing how many sluts are coming out of the woodwork!