the literature of an unsnobbish snob

My house is filled with books. They’re stacked crazily on the bookshelves and in piles on the floor. I read incessantly, voraciously. My friends ask me how to spell words but it’s not as though I have a preternatural memory; I just see thousands and thousands of words over time. They burn into my mind. I  have a love affair with the English language.  I love nonfiction and fiction, prose and poetry. I adore Barbara Has, Billy Collins, Walter Pater and Thomas Wolfe. I wept in a Southern lit course once, overcome by the thought that the only man who could ever understand my soul is dead and buried (Wolfe).

But I also adore Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, and O. I suppose I never noticed before, but my taste is totally unsnobbish. Sure, I have my opinions on authors. I have a personal grievance against Jodi Picoult. What’s-her-name, Stephanie Meyer, the Mormon vampire trilogist, she’s got characters flatter than her heroine. The movies had more in the way of character development than the books, because it’s actually impossible to put a real actor on the screen and have him be as two dimensional as her hot vampire. (Which he’s not. Edward Cullen throughout the film leers at the camera from a corner angle. It’s extremely disconcerting. Even in the posters bedecking my little sister’s bedroom.) A human actor has  mannerisms that can’t be erased. BUT– Meyer can plot. She can move the storyline. I have enormous respect for that. My characters get stuck everywhere I put them. Briana couldn’t get a couple out of a diner for weeks. And I’ve read somewhere that Danielle Steele has had an incredibly tragic life. (NOT that that excuses her prose.) Ultimately, these paler authors get people reading. Again, however, I am absolutely not a snob when it comes to reading. Video games are probably more stimulating because you can play them with other people. I just happen to prefer reading. Did I mention that I wouldn’t cry if I wrote a string of awful novels that sold millions? Nope. Not a tear.

This is why I don’t mind when Ashley says, as he did tonight, that he wants me to put away O magazine when our friends come over. I don’t think it’s odd that Thomas Mann’s Dr. Faustus is open beside O magazine. I only noticed when he pointed it out. I happen to like Oprah. I like that she has enough money to pay some very well-read, tasteful people to pick out the books for her book club. It’s a pretty good recommendation, and I’m always looking for recommendations. Sure, it’s a moneymaker, as Ashley objected, for some reason. Since when, I asked, are we against people making money? This is America. I’m for the underdog and the entrepreneur. I am so for people picking up Isabel Allende because Oprah’s Book Club is stamped on the cover. Who cares! She’s a fantastic read!

Then I started thinking: there’s a few reasons Ashley might object to having Oprah’s literature (okay, I did smirk at that) lying around.

1. It’s addressed to him. My magazines are variously addressed to Her Royal Highness Pohlig, Her Delicious Excellency, Queen Lady Me. I thought it would be amusing to put in his name for as the addressee for O. Which it was.

2. Maybe he thinks that because the “commoners” read it, it’s poor quality. Well I bristle at the thought. Dickens was adored by the commoners, the plebs, what have you. He didn’t write down to them. He wrote up to them. There’s a lot of things Oprah is, but one thing she’s not is condescending. Condescension is hateful. (Unless I’m doing it or Bri is. Then it’s just funny.) It says, I have nothing to learn from you. Right now, I feel like I have everything to learn.

In sum, that’s why I won’t put away my magazines or my biographies when my friends come over. Unless I feel like straightening up.

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