Friday, March 21, 2008

Dirty Little (Book) Secrets

Now, my fellow Grubbies, since most of you don’t know me from Adam, and since the rest of you probably have much more important things floating around in your skulls, I’m going to go ahead and divulge one of my dirty little secrets. Perhaps even my dirtiest, being that I talk a big game about reading only the best books.

I read everything. I mean it. I read magazines- Poets & Writers, Writers Chronicle, Fence, Dwell. I read informational brochures- real estate, natural beauty products, piddly writers’ conferences, new MFA programs. Personal blogs, Yahoo News,,,, And I read books. Of course I read books! Really, really good books.

But which books are good books? Granted, we all know who’s in the literary canon and that if you haven’t read The Brothers Karamazov, at least don’t admit it in a crowd of writers (or literature grad students. That can get really ugly). But what about the rest? Marilynne Robinson? Of course. Phillip Roth? Duh. Grace Paley. Oh yeah. Alice Munro? Yep. Now talk to me about Anne Rice. How about Anais Nin? Stephen King? I was once in attendance at a heated squabble where one side of the table argued red-faced that Sherman Alexie was the most important writer ever to come out of the northwest, while the other side brandished their beers and loudly yelled, “hack.” I have a friend in Chicago who swears that How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton changed her life. I read it. My life stayed exactly the same.

Alright, alright. What am I really talking about here? High art verses entertainment? I can almost hear the ripple of sighs wash across the Grubbie atmosphere. Enough already, you say. We’ve had it up to here with you spoiled, overeducated, elitist, academic literary writers.

But Halt! Do not cast that first stone!

Because I love it. I love it all! I’ve read nearly every Anne Rice book to ever hit a chain store shelf, even the ones released under her pen name, A.N. Roquelaure. Ditto for Stephen King (let me go on record right now and say that I don’t think Stephen King has ever gotten the credit he deserves). Love me some Anais Nin and Henry Miller. I’ve read oodles of authors you’ve never heard of (and never will, trust me) and I’ve even forayed into self-help(ever heard of Tony Robbins? That’s right.). On the other hand, I’ve read Wuthering Heights nine times, completely deconstructed it line by line, and have memorized most of it- for fun. Same thing with Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body. If Carole Maso and I met I could tell her exactly when The American Woman in the Chinese Hat should have definitely gone back to New York. Give me a little Faulkner and I swoon. John Updike, how can I express my love for thee?

So there you have it: I swing both ways. I won’t be giving up my book-snob public persona anytime soon, but you might come across me in some out of the way coffee shop, sunglasses on and hat pulled low, inhaling This ‘N That: The Memoirs of Betty Davis as fast as my mocha. There’s a difference between good books and bad books to be sure, but perhaps that difference relies largely on opinion. Maybe it doesn’t matter, as long as we’re all reading.

In All Dreadfulness,


Whitney said...

OOh... Carla! Love this post. We're actually planning a party called "Grub Gone.. Guilty" where we are having authors "out" themselves on their guiltiest reading pleasures... maybe you should be one of the readers!

The Writers' Group said...

CArla, you're my kind of reader. Excellent post.