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You had me at ‘lit’ |

Young Star

You had me at ‘lit’

IN A NUTSHELL - Samantha King - The Philippine Star

Reading is a way of broadcasting the kind of person you want to be perceived as. Something especially significant when you’re making the rounds in that unforgiving, highly selective sport called dating.

A few years ago, a friend of mine, newly recovered from the pangs of heartache, said that if it weren’t her destiny to find The One, then she’d give herself up to the first guy who professed a love for Henrik Ibsen. “No questions asked!” she yelled. She was partly kidding, of course. Back then, following our unofficial tally, the number of guys in our college who had professed a love for Ibsen was approximately one, and he was, expectedly, taken.

I could understand the sentiment. Anyone who loves books must have felt that way at least once in her life — using literary taste as a litmus test for compatibility. It begins with the surreptitious glances thrown at the cute guy in a cafe, followed by the more intense stares directed at the novel he happens to be holding. Is the book highbrow? Lowbrow? Is it dog-eared and cheaply bought at Book Sale? Or all shiny and new? Is it from a local author? (In which case, plus points all around) or is it by some white/ black/ yellow writer from abroad? The process of elimination ends once you’ve pondered the answer for each query, culminating at the point when you either: a) stare long and longingly at the guy, or b) dismiss him as a fraud — but not without that last longing look.

In this age of social media and online self-branding, profiling one’s reading habit is already a rough indicator of other qualities: style, education, curiosity, general intelligence, humor. Posting a favorite book or author on your profile page means finding the middle ground between looking dumb and looking pretentious, and, more often than not, it’s a way of broadcasting the kind of person you want to be perceived as — something especially significant when you’re making the rounds in that unforgiving, highly selective sport called dating. Indeed, one of the greater romantic burdens of the era is the idea of compatibility on every level.  There is, after all, the implied notion that if no one happens to be at hand in that passionate, whirlwind-romance kind of way, then you can settle for someone who at least likes what you’re reading.

Of course, this begs the question of whether literary taste really matters — to which the majority of single folk will probably answer with a resounding “no.” In a controlled environment full of middle-class, educated people, there’s only the smaller subgroup of writers and readers and deviant management majors who’d actually rate long-term compatibility based on your keen interest in JK Rowling’s latest novel, or your love for someone as esoteric as Nietzsche, for that matter. It’s an overly (read: exclusive) middle-class concern, and one which most people could care less about on a daily basis.

With that, perhaps it isn’t about whom he reads, but whether he reads at all.  Back in college, dismayed at the lack of boy friends who actually read in high school, I remember modifying my previous criteria of only dating someone who finished the entire Harry Potter series, to dating someone who read, period. Compatibility in literary taste, I’ve come to find, doesn’t compare to the shared love of reading itself, where a whole range of possible conversational topics opens up because of the varied authors, insights, characters, time periods, and themes. It’s a matter of threshing out your similar perversions. And in that sense, love really conquers all, literary standards included.

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