Lowbrow Confesion.

I don’t read highbrow literature. Atwood, Mistry, Toews: They are >ahem< as closed books to me. Don’t get me wrong. I consider myself quite well-read, owing to parents who encouraged me to read anything that came my way, as well as an education that included The Canon, the list of Dead White Guys who wrote on a rainy island half a world away. As a result, I can catch an allusion to Hamlet or Beowulf or the Olympians. I also have read a lot of nonfiction about things that have interested me at one time or another: animals, architecture, feminist theory, salmon and history, to name some. I can talk a lot about some stuff.

However, I do not confuse ‘reading’ with ‘improving myself’. Reading is for pleasure and for finding things out, not for humourless journeys into 1930’s Pittsburgh to read endless pages of a character’s angst.

For pleasure, my shelves are filled with Terry Pratchett, L.M. Montgomery, Charles De Lint, Juila Quinn, Nora Roberts, etc. Okay, I love Kinsella, but mostly when he’s writing as Silas Ermineskin. I do not have ‘literary’ tastes. Further, I have never attempted to look ‘more intelligent’ with my reading choices. Okay, when I went to Philadelphia with Dad for Bo’s birthday, I purposely didn’t take any romances, in case Dad was embarassed by them on the plane. But for fun, I am not reading about tortured coal-mining families in Cape Breton. I am reading about fashionista vampires and modern-day superheroes.

So I don’t understand why people give me gifts of books that I will probably never read. I have been given ‘The Oxford Guide to English Literature’ twice. By the same person, even. I have never opened it once. I have been given books by Carol Shields, La Atwood, by several authors whose names escape me, who write about childhoods starved of affection and the resultant dysfunctional adult relationships. Why? Have I somehow misrepresented myself? Did they look at the Nora Roberts in my hand and assume it was some OTHER Nora Roberts, one whose novels are ‘deeply haunting journeys through the soul’ or something? There’s only one Nora Roberts, and she’s very rich because she is populist, not highbrow.

And I read her books like they are fricking crack.

8 Comments to “Lowbrow Confesion.”

  1. By cheesefairy, October 3, 2006 @ 1:05 pm

    I think there is an assumption that all university students/graduates are highbrow. It’s an eliteness factor. I met some actual highbrow people like that in uni. Assholes, for the most part, but one introduced me to both Martin Amis (LOVE!) and my first real boyfriend (not love) so – not all bad

    YOU are smart and well-spoken and you write, therefore people probably assume you like “writerly” writers. & you have a classic quality about you, as a person, I can’t really explain why. I don’t know you very well and if I was forced to get you a book as a present I might’ve gone with some good canadian dysfunction (of course that’s what I like – and what I always end up writing, damn it all) but not now. Now I would just give you pink socks (the universally-accepted opposite of poncy literature) and say happy birthday (which it almost is, right?)

  2. By Liz, October 3, 2006 @ 1:49 pm

    Hmm. Maybe I’m just looking at things from inside a brain that has gone to university. I hadn’t thought about the elitist thing, but it makes sense. University can be a big scary thing, if you haven’t been. And thanks for the ‘smart’ thing. I think maybe I just wear too many cardigans. Pink socks might accessorize them perfectly.

    Yep, B-day is next week. Woot!

  3. By Beth, October 3, 2006 @ 4:18 pm

    And this is why I never buy people books. I will, however, give someone a gift card to Chapters when I know they are readers. Personally, I hate Atwood. I tried to read Findley and couldn’t get past the third chapter of the Pilgrim. I tried, honest I did. Someone once told me to read Margaret Drabble. She took the first three chapters to describe the two hours before the beginning of a cocktail party. I just couldn’t do it.
    Elizabeth Berg I can eat like candy though. Murder mysteries written by women. That’s my crack.

  4. By Liz, October 3, 2006 @ 11:20 pm

    Drabble was the anthropologist, right? It strikes me that she’d be long-winded. I must check out Elizabeth Berg. It’s never too late to have another source of reading-crack.

  5. By Beth, October 4, 2006 @ 6:40 pm

    I passed on all my Elizabeth Berg to Arwen. I do have her book on writing though. Some great writing exercises.

  6. By Pam, October 5, 2006 @ 1:20 pm

    After my BA in English lit (UBC), the first thing I read to live down all those dead/straight/white guys was Erica Jong’s “Fear of Flying.” Racy, feminist, chockablock with literary allusions.

    Literature or pulp, aren’t they different experiences? In spite of a readerly outlook changed forever by Edumacation, I still need both.

  7. By Liz, October 5, 2006 @ 11:25 pm

    Pam, you are right. They’re very different experiences. I just find with ‘Literature’, a little goes a long way for me.

  8. By gen, October 7, 2006 @ 9:59 pm

    I have to admit I do have a fondness for the CLit – I also love non-fiction. There is something about digging into a good treatise on any subject that I am interested in (and sometimes topics that I don’t know that I am interested in yet) that makes my toes curl. However, I need to always go back to the low brow, pulpy fiction that makes me happy. Children’s lit is the best with fantasy coming in as a close second. The combination of the two – pure bliss. In the end it doesn’t really matter.(As a side note whenever I say that or write that I always hear Platinum Blonde in my head.)

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