Thursday, August 03, 2006

that book is so good on you.

The Guardian has this utterly charming, self-involved blog on the attractiveness of book-readers. What a worthless goldfish I am, I immediately jumped at it because it combined things I enjoy: public transport, books and attractive people. The comments contain such gems as 'I met my girlfriend when I was reading Murakami in a nightclub,' and 'I'd like a girl who reads Kafka, Beckett or Dostoevsky, but when is that ever going to happen?'. I think the first man is actually single, unless he was in a nightclub that has a reading room, and the second one is likely to stay single until he meets a girl who likes getting beaten with a mop while tied to a bed with her apron strings.

I don't see how meeting someone who reads the same books as you do is equal to true love. I might meet a man reading Jeanette Winterson on a train but unless he thinks Written on the Body was crap we'd end up going nowhere, wouldn't we? And if he were reading The Da Vinci Code he might really be an intellectually and socially curious man who hates the book but needed to know what the fuss was about? It would be wrong of me to dismiss his enjoyment of T S Eliot if it was only a mild aberration, and his real love someone completely different, like Nikki Giovanni.

I should like to see people on the train reading geeky comics, and laughing at pulpy biographies of Jackie O and Elizabeth Taylor. I should like to see someone unable to suppress a goofy, excited grin as they read the last bit of Persuasion. I should like to see someone close their eyes as they turned a page of Yehuda Amichai. I should like to see someone holding open John Donne and silently mouthing along the words of 'Batter my heart, three person'd God.'

I should like to see someone up and throw The Catcher in the Rye into Mahim Creek. I should like to see someone read Christina Rossetti in a pose of pre-Raphaelite meditativeness, or Catullus, biting kuckles and crossing legs. Raymond Chandler with beady eyes, perhaps, or the latter half of Cuckold with the shadowed face and the hooded eyes of one who stayed up the night before, incapable of putting it down. I'd like to see someone reading those old illustrated imported-from-Russia books like Northern Lights with cheeks sucked in, reminded of the children they used to be, or a child reading Dickens, or a teenager reading Pablo Neruda to the boy or girl in the next compartment.

I'd like to see someone in a Jim Morrison tee-shirt reading Anna Akhmatova. I'd like to see someone reading Pu La Deshpande or KM Munshi in the original. I'd like to see someone's face go slack with grief as they read Regeneration. I'd like to see busy women reading Simone deBeauvoir and Wendy Cope and weep with laughter as they read Psmith or Blandings stories. I'd like to see someone cry at the end of a book.


  1. Nice. Can't say I've heard of all the authors you mention, but I went :) on reading your first few lines

  2. Does Gaiman or the Watchmen make it to the geeky comic list and would Lovelace suffice instead of Donne?

  3. anonymouse12:30 pm

    You can't tell a person by one book (s)he reads. Though someone reading a heavy duty Physics or Mathematics text would definitely be interesting to talk to.

    I agree with the sentiments expressed in this comic though :)

  4. @ unratz: it makes me happiest to amuse readers. :)

    @ imhunt: um, they're both a little too flavour-of-the-day to be unmitigatedly cool, imho. my primary feeling on seeing someone read a graphic novel on the train would be 'ooh, rich kid,' though, with a secondary 'oooh, kid with rich friends.' goshdarn things BURN your money.

    as for lovelace replacing donne, never show me your face again.

    @ 'mouse: which sentiments do you agree with? i've met a lot of woman engineers who read voraciously. but i suppose they're single because men don't believe they really exist.

  5. Alright I'll 'scale down' to Frank Miller's Dark Knight and stick to the Illiad. Now....

  6. Mmm, I didn't mention the Iliad because I can't imagine someone reading it out of a book on the train. Reciting it from memory, maybe, but it'd be too much like performance art, reading about the death of Patroklos in the crush of bodies. To me it seems like you need some space to pace and rant when you're reading it, at least the first time around.

  7. Feel woefully illiterate when spot unheard-of, but pliz to tell me who Anna Akhmatova is?

    And the Donne lines. Sigh.

    Its a lovely post, Sups. :D

  8. I like Written on the Body! Our relationship is doomed, oh noes.

  9. anonymouse1:36 am

    I know a lot of engineers of both genders too. They aren't geeks though. They just don't have the passion of the geek.

  10. Lovely post!

    I read P. L. Deshpande in the original wearing a Doors T-shirt. Does that count? And I read Transmetropolitan wearing a kurta.

    Sadly, my female engineer friends read the Da Vinci Code. And so do my male engineer friends. I'd cheerfully fling my copy in the Mutha, but fortunately, I don't own one.

  11. "Lot's Wife"

    And the just man trailed God's messenger
    His huge, light shape devoured the black hill.
    But uneasiness shadowed his wife and spoke to her:
    "It's not too late, you can look back still

    At the red towers of Sodom, the place that bore you,
    The square in which you sang, the spinning-shed,
    At the empty windows of that upper storey
    Where children blessed your happy marriage-bed.'

    Her eyes that were still turning when a bolt
    Of pain shot through them, were instantly blind;
    Her body turned into transparent salt,
    And her swift legs were rooted to the ground.

    Who mourns one woman in a holocaust?
    Surely her death has no significance?
    Yet in my heart she will never be lost
    She who gave up her life to steal one glance.

    -- Anna Akhmatova.

  12. @ jabberwock: Thank you. :)

    @ aisha: Omgz why? It's - it's - we need to talk about this!

    @ anonymouse: Not one? Really? How come I know the several I know, then? Truly, this is a strange world!

    @ aditya: thank you to you too! and really, you and anonymouse must revise your opinion of non-geeky engineers. maybe the percentage of truly geeky folk who love what they do is less in engineering because there are so many of them who would rather have been doing something else but were forced to take a BE by anxious parents?


  13. anonymouse1:21 pm

    I know a few geeks of the female persuation too. Some of them are even in engineering. None of them are in India.

    Geeks are proto-hackers (or hackers) in the old sense of the term. They are craftsmen (or craftwomen in this day of gender equality). If you see your work (which may or may not be your day job) as high art, full of passion and rocking with emotion, fuelled by blood, sweat and tears, you may be a geek. If work and play are the same thing, you may be a lucky geek. If your answer to "Why do it?" is "Because I can", you may be a geek.

    But if you don't have that burning flame of love for your work, you aren't a geek. Merely working with technology is not a qualification to be a geek. (You can be a language geek, an economics geek, a science geek, an engineering geek..., a geek of all trades. Geeks are defined by their artistry, not their trade.)

  14. Bravo, 'mouse. However, all this passionate definition has convinced me that I will never be more than a dilettante. A lady of my age and station...

  15. anonymouse6:05 pm

    That's ok. You are an English language geek.

  16. ah well I know this post is old but couldnt resist commenting...I can see myself doing 73.67 percent of the stuff you had written ( I know I know..sometime sone has to be precise...balme it on my job..)

    But I would deifnitely love to meet a girl reads Kafka, Beckett or Dostoevsky but preferably not in amsterdam... ( Woody allen's Whore of Mensa anyone? )

    But nice blog...:) for a blog lurker fancy I didnt bump into yours before...