“I hate intelligent people.” I said in a bar in Kent Ohio circa 2003.
“No. You don’t hate intelligent people. You hate pretentious people.” The response I got.
Every few years or so there is a viral facebook share revolving literature. A few weeks ago one went around to post ten books that affected one’s life, and then tag people to see various responses. It’s fun and you get to see what your friends like. Tejas Desai tagged me, and also included this Huffington Post article, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alexis-kleinman/stop-lying-about-your-fav_b_5772168.html . I gladly posted my ten life changing books, and then read the horrendous article. Like a hundred or so others readers I could post a comment on the article to voice my opinion. But making my own blog post puts more emphasis on myself.
The quote I opened this up with did open my eyes shortly after arriving to Grad school. During my undergrad I was a commuter student. I read a lot being an English major, but I was not confident enough to pursue an advanced English degree. Some of the Masters students I met read a lot more than I did, and in a few cases seemed arrogant. But I went to Kent State a few years later for my library degree and ended up reading more than before. I learned the lesson that personal knowledge is not the problem, but personality traits matter more. Someone that pretentiously talks down to people about literature in another setting would bully someone on the basketball court.
I feel so much in life is availability to opportunity and that makes pretentious people annoying. A person who read Grapes of Wrath is not a better person than someone who has not. Some of the most intelligent people I’ve met are not avid readers. The majority of adults are not avid readers. This Huffington Post article implies an interest in literature is calculated, exaggerated, and fake. Sure there are showboats out there, but that is natural with any human endeavor.
On my ten books, most are classics, and serious literature. I did not read much until high school. In college I first read a sample from Tracks by Louise Erdrich in my freshman comp class, and then I bought the book. The reading was so different, and unique it’s the first book that grabbed me in that special way. Reading a great book can be life changing, and does leave an impression on the reader. However ten people can have ten different reactions to a book. Unlike movies the sound, visuals, and feeling are all interpreted by the readers mind. That’s why when I saw the Harry Potter movies I was surprised by the pronunciation of the evil teachers name, Snape, because I ignored the ‘e’ at the end.
Reading a book that you connect with is priceless, and a lifetime pursuit. Sometimes you read over ten books you could care less about, and then you pick a winner. There are millions of librarians, teachers, and professors that promote literature in a positive and inclusive way. I realize that this Huffington Post article was tongue and cheek, but I just want to make clear that it’s okay to be proud of reading literature. In grad school and later when I moved to NYC, I got into the habit of asking people their favorite book. A lot of the times when I did that I got a very good book to read.
Lastly, let everyone know your favorite book. Wear a shirt with the book title on it, tattoo it on a visible part of your body, and finally recommend it to as many people as you can. Be proud that you read literature. For my last poke at this article, I’m pretentiously listing most of the books I rated 5 stars on goodreads!
Jude the Obscure, Tender is The Night,The Easy Way to Stop Smoking, Native Son, Indignation, Notes From the Underground, And Then There Were None, Little Women, Under the Glacier, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, The Autobiography of Malcolm X To Kill a Mockingbird, Malcolm X, The Golden Notebook, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Underworld, The Quiet Room: A Journey Out of the Torment of Madness, The Double Bind, The Trial, The Grapes of Wrath, Blindness,Tess of the d’Urbervills, 1984, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay , Remains of the Day, Invisible Man, East of Eden Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test The House of the Spirits, Crime and Punishment, Just Kids, The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, Suite Francaise, The Naked and the Dead, I, Claudius, Tropic of Cancer, Chronicler of the Winds, American pastoral, On Chesil Beach, Remember Me Like This, Light in August, Lolita, 1Q84,The Jungle, Freedom, Infidel, Midnight’s Children, Dead Souls, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Life (Keith Richards),The Book Thief, The Confederacy of Dunces, The Tin Drum, Tracks, Portnoy’s Complaint