“What are you reading?”
Do you preface your answer with an apologetic shrug and say, “I know it’s junk (substitute “chick-lit,” ”on Oprah’s list,” ”YA,” “the Twilight series,” or “Harry Potter” for the word “junk”) but…”? If so, you may have Reader’s Shame, which may or may not be a symptom of Book Snobbery. And you are not alone.
As I posted in an earlier entry, my bookcase is filled with books I’ve already read and want near, which is comforting but of little help when I’m desperate for something to read now. One of the two or three books I haven’t read is Julie Powell’s Julie & Julia. I attribute the book’s presence on my shelf to my dear friend C, who, a month prior to sending it had sent me Julia Child’s charming My Life in France, which I adored and probably wouldn’t have read without her sending it my way.
With apologies to C, here is a bit of what she wrote in the note that came along with it: “Here is the Julia book. So lovely to dream of Paris in another era. It must have been wonderful in the post war period, like spring…everything was coming back to life!”
A real friend sends you books you wouldn’t think to get for yourself, but may be wonderful surprise treasures; they may save the day. These volumes may also contribute to your Reader's Shame. And as I drew part 2 of C’s gift (her note reading: “Here is book #2. It’s not as good [as My Life in France] but fun to read,”) I felt my shame/snobbery surfacing. The stern black spine of Absalom, Absalom (which I haven’t read) stood right next to Julie…. I inhaled and drew the lemon yellow book from the bookcase.
I’m up to page 103 and it’s fine; a perfectly okay way station while I eagerly await a couple of the books due in at the library. There are parts to skip (can’t stand the stuff that’s in italic—her scenes of Julia and Paul), and parts to mutter about (poor Dennis on more than one occasion has heard me grumble, “I can write better than this”) and plenty of dull bits. But I enjoy the food sections and am flying through it quickly enough that I may finish before someone has an opportunity to ask what I’m reading. But, if caught out in the next couple of days will I sheepishly smile and use one of the aforementioned apologetic replies? Dear Reader, I shall be brave and do my utmost to simply blurt out Julie & Julia. However, my current hope is that I will not be tested.
Confessions anyone? We’re much harder on ourselves than on others.