Monday, March 29, 2010

You Are What You Read?

So since I am in Los Angeles and do not drive in Los Angeles, I walk--a lot. And since I was ten I have not left the house without a book--two to be safe. In middle school I used to fall asleep with at least thirty of my favorite books on the bed with me. Not sure what I planned to do with them but I liked it that they were there.

I also enjoy books in the pool or in the ocean. One would think that I could just do one thing at a time but oh no--I manage the tricky reading/sunscreen/sand/water/wave/rock/sunhat/tourists watching/book warping combination no problem. My sister does it too although she manages to restrict her reading to the pool and the beach rather than the ocean. Anyway I like books. How they feel, weigh, sound: that thick thud of a hefty book shutting and the delicate creak of a new book opening. My brother needs a book with him for his afternoon nap, my father always travels with a small hardback PG Wodehouse novel, a golf magazine and a political book about Asia and my mom keeps a rotation of miniature Jane Austen novels in her handbag. She is very happy to have gotten to the stage where she forgets them almost as soon as she has read them--much like the painting of the Firth of Forth Bridge.

And I carry them around and people see me with books. Some days I will be wandering around with Gone with the Wind (one of the books I am teaching right now) or Count of Monte Cristo (teaching again) or Twilight: Breaking Dawn (yup that is just me reading), 1930's poetry (me reading again--my first love), The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles (teaching--although it is brilliant!) or maybe a research books for the first novel (academic looking history books about: the Restoration, plague, fire, Christopher Wren or Louis XIV).

People will respond/speak/interact with me differently according to what I am carrying. GWTW and The Count both either win me "haven't you already read that?" looks or excited, complicit "I love that book!" looks. Academic books always trigger the 'What do you do?" question and Breaking Dawn gets ignored by everyone over seventeen. No one knows what to make of the poetry or the Whangdoodles.

The judging process is instantaneous. I was talking about it recently with Jonah from the Mac Store (got the 'g' and 'o' fixed!). He is ironically reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. People clock, absorb, judge, asses and pass verdict almost instantly. I can be dressed in a tutu (love tutus) but if I am carrying Anna Karenina I will be taken seriously. If I am in a tutu and reading Twilight... hopeless.

And the funny thing is that they are not necessarily wrong. I do read light fluffy on days when I feel light fluffy. Or maybe the book comes first and then the fluffiness? It is a bit of a barometer of that day--but just that day. The mistake comes in believing that that is the sum total. The next day I will wear overalls and read about Whangdoodles.


  1. love it! only... i don't drive! are you ever in hollywood?

  2. in all the times i have been to los angeles, i have never, EVER seen anyone walking! you must be very easy to spot! :) i loved this entry, and fully agree; i love that feeling of unintentionally stepping into another pair of shoes depending on what i am reading, finding out through a glance from a stranger that i happen to be an intellectual today, a mom, an activist, a farmer, a businesswoman, or just a dumb girl (can't remember what books inspire this image, but it has happened many times). often though, i feel i need to put down my book and explain!

    i can also completely relate to the 30 books on the bed! it has irritated many a boyfriend, since they are often on their side of the bed, strewn about, and saying quietly "we are more important right now".

    priya, have you read annie dillard? i was recently introduced to her even though she has been writing for ages. i just read The Maytrees and i am not sure i have ever read anything as beautiful. amazing writing.

  3. hee hee. i am the only one walking! i love annie dillard! have you read 'the living'? it is slow but brilliant--like super rich chocolate that you can only eat in small bites.

  4. Love this post. I find it difficult to go anywhere without a book either, maybe it's the "what if?" factor. Anyway, it always makes for a good conversation starter.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog, I'm a follower now.

  5. It does start conversations. Mostly they begin with "Why do you have a book in a movie theatre?" So glad you stopped by!


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