11 January 2013

Judging a Book by Its Lover

How can a book about books possibly be interesting?  When it's by Lauren Leto, self-described "law school dropout."  Judging a Book by Its Lover. 

Lord in heaven, the book is funny.

Leto hits the nail on the head about the challenges of being a "book person."  It's rare to find someone equally "bookish" as oneself.  You either feel like the nerdiest person in the room, or you're way out of your intellectual depth.

In the last year, I've had these two wildly divergent experiences:

I happened to mention to someone-I-knew-in-my-youth that I write a book blog. 
"Uh, why?"
"I've always read a lot, so I thought I should write about what I love."
"You read a lot? How much do you read?"
"Oh, about a book a week."
Give yourself a leg up!
"A book a week?  Oh my god, did you hear that, honey?  She reads a book a WEEK!"
"Um, yeah." (Everyone is now staring at me.)
"But why write a blog?"
"Well, that's a good question..."
"Why do you read, anyway?"

How do I respond to that?  Why write a blog?  Ask the hundreds of thousands of people who do.  It's like asking someone "Why do you ski?"  "Why do you run half-marathons?" "Why do you donate blood?"  "Why do you still work a 60-hour workweek?"  Everyone has something they are passionate about.  But, yes, I supposed it is still a reasonably unusual endeavor.

But asking me why I read?  That's like asking me why I bathe and brush my teeth.  It really took me aback that someone would simply not comprehend the validity of reading and/or writing for its own sake.

(Over the course of being in her presence, the "OMG a-book-a-week" person reveals that Coach bags, mani-pedis, watering the lawn, and the elliptical at the gym rank among her most inspiring moments in life.  We don't have much in common.)

On the other hand, I've also found myself in a group of such tremendous literati fire-power that saying, "I just finished Anna Karenina" sounded about as impressive to their ears as "I just finished Green Eggs and Ham."  After admitting sheepishly that, yes, I truly do enjoy the gladiatorial combat that is Notre Dame football, someone asked me where I went for my Master's.  (panic)  Oh, look, there's no line at the bar!  I think I'll freshen up this drink....

This book is fun fun fun if you know a bit about literature (classic or contemporary) because you get the jokes.  In "Stereotyping People by Favorite Author", it's one tweetable sentence after another.  Superfan of Charles Dickens? "Ninth graders who think they're going to be authors some day but end up in marketing." Ernest Hemingway? "Men who own cottages." Hunter S. Thompson? "That kid in your philosophy class with the stupid tattoo." Terry Goodkind? "People who have never been Dungeon Master but still play D&D."  (p.112-126) And on and on....

It's also fun fun fun if you don't know anything about literature. That's where Lauren Leto can save the day with the chapter entitled "How to Fake it," in which she summarizes just about every author that might come up in conversation while you are trying to balance a glass of chardonnay in one hand while simultaneously eating canapes off a small plate (Note: I haven't mastered the art of making this look good).  Consider it the cocktail party Worst-Case Scenario handbook.  I haven't read David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, but I know about it, and now I know a little bit more about it - at least enough to "fake it." 

Sidebar - do people actually read Infinite Jest, or just read about it enough to sound worldly?

Finally, I really connected with her true love affair with books.  That "a good novel presents you with an engaging world that is a reality only for you" (p. 268). But it's also a world that we share with every other reader of that book.  But consider - every one of those "worlds" is one we've created, based on the book, in our own minds.  Every reading experience creates a new, unique memory of a new "reality.  Think about THAT one for a while!

Lauren Leto is the creator of "Texts From Last Night".  Don't go there if you don't enjoy jokes about being drunk, the things that happen when you're drunk (especially the things you don't remember... but your friends do), and the pitiful remorse the following day.


  1. I am buying this book immediately! I know exactly the feeling of being either the most well-read person in the room - meaning I read at all - or the one who admits she liked the Twilight books and then spends the rest of the evening trying to gain back even an ounce of credibility by name-dropping every piece of "real literature" I ever read (or sometimes didn't). Thanks for the great blog about what sounds like a fantastic book!

  2. Amy, you'll have a ball. Thanks for dropping by and leaving a note!!! :-) A.