Mouse rant blog vent mouse.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Books and bad habits

I read alot but my habits have slipped downhill a lot in the past few years. I am reminded of this when I read Roxanne's resolution to read one book a week. I thought, arrogantly as I lit my pipe, "By god, I read a lot more than that."

Then I checked out her list. And I was humbled. And forced to make a joke about Dave Barry to compensate.

On one hand, I could be honest and point out that I have read things like Dante and whatnot. But as a general rule, I don't crack open the ol' Dante for pleasurable reading now that I'm out of college. Not that I think my brainpower has slipped or anything, but I tend to get interrupted more than I used to so high level concentration just isn't my thing. Or that's my excuse anyway.

See, the last book I read took me a day to read, but it was the latest David Sedaris book and it was hysterical and a real page-turner. On my list of books to read are a book of interviews with punk rockers, a book about girl groups, a pulp art heavy history of teenagers and probably George Lakoff's new book when it comes to the library. Nothing heavy.

It's like that with me and movies. Once in awhile, I fall back into my old habit of watching deep and important films. Some I'll still watch in a minute. But mostly I still go for brainless fluff or TV shows that manage to tax my mind a little without making me anxious. (See lists below.)

I'm not a thoughtless turd. I still think I'm bright and with it. I had a conversation a few months ago with a friend who drunkenly told me that I am sort of amusing because I apparently make like I'm some punk rock chick but deep down inside I'm really bright and educated and I just told him that I didn't really think the two were opposites or anything. He was mildly humbled and corrected himself, but I knew what he meant.

I told him I disapprove of the division between high and low art. But obviously, the distinction still stings or I wouldn't have a post like this. But I did quote the Ramones to make my point, and it was pretty funny. So it's very confusing.

I'm stung by snobbiness. By no means do I think Rox is a snob, because true rejection of snobbiness would mean embracing high and low art without double-checking it or anything. I am acutely aware that many aspiring and educated people I know have sneered at me for having my rock music habits. And many of my good friends who didn't study what I did in college or didn't go at all sometimes worry that I think I'm better or something lame like that. The worst is people who come from the snotty, educated background but like to hang out with a sort of wide-eyed wonder at how cool they are being by being near the rock and roll, what they perceive as thuggish types that are many of my friends. Or, to put it more succiently, they're slumming.

Over dinner some friends and I had a discussion, started by a friend who teaches elementary school, about the nature of intelligence. The group at the table had varying degrees of education and varying relationships to reading books and whatnot. But it was generally agreed that intelligence is a combination of natural ability and education and that it's hard to measure because one person's stupid is another's bright. My boyfriend and I don't read the same stuff at all, and his magazines on motorcycles and bass playing sound like pure goobledy-gook to me. He can read my academic tomes just fine, but they bore the shit out of him. Who's smarter?

The teacher brought up a perfect example. She has a truly bilingual student, raised by a parent who speaks nothing but French and another who speaks nothing but English. His spelling sucks, but he's her best reader in the class. Is he smart? I say yes.

Long, rambling post and by no means am I picking on Roxanne. In fact, my point is why do we feel so damn threatened by the taste of others that even without being snobbed at, we get all defensive? Why is this so damn important?

54 Comments:

Blogger Trish said...

I have a book for you to read that will wow your elitist friends and scare the shit out of you, being entertaining all the time:

"The Demon In The Freezer," by Richard Preston.

It's about the eradication of smallpox worldwide as well as about bioterrorism. I couldn't put it down. Preston is an addiction for me. He also wrote a book about ebola called "Hot Zone." It made best seller lists.

There was an FX movie called "Smallpox" that took the same tack as Preston's book, but it was more entertainment, although it was presented as a documentary. It aired last night. I liked it a lot, despite the alarmist and conservative propaganda bits it started out with. It might air again soon. You might be able to catch it on FX if you're fast. Watch it. It was very good, and very scary.

1/03/2005

 
Blogger Roxanne said...

Well, my list is mostly made up of stuff I've been putting off so that I could watch "The Apprentice" instead.

1/03/2005

 
Blogger Amanda said...

Dammit! I knew that would come off as offensive. :P

Nah, I think a lot of stuff was brewing. Yesterday I fell asleep wondering why I don't belly up to Shakespeare for bedtime reading anymore. And then my boyfriend and my cousin and I had a long and fairly funny discussion about what people read in various coffee shops around town and the pretension that is involved with reading Plato while attempting to pick up chicks. All in all, you were merely a catalyst.

1/03/2005

 
Blogger Trish said...

That's okay. Tape "Smallpox" and watch it when you're down witn a cold. Smallpox starts out mimicking a cold or flu, and you'll get paranoid. I heard "The Apprentice" is good, but I've never seen it. There is far too much good and bad TV to catch up on, isn't there?

Read "The Demon In The Freezer." Trust me. You won't be able to put it down.

1/03/2005

 
Blogger mythago said...

Maybe you don't belly up to Shakespeare because, well, you've read a lot of it? Ditto lots of Great Literature. You can re-read Moby Dick, and I recommend you do, but choosing less weighty reading doesn't make one lowbrow.

1/03/2005

 
Blogger Roxanne said...

Oh, I'm not taken aback by what you wrote. Some of these books I'll breeze through and some will take a little longer. Well, some a LOT longer.

Speaking of your Plato story, that would be an interesting post -->"Books I've seen people read in a bar or coffee house blah blah to pick up chicks." My fav instance of this was a friend of mine who was already reading The English Patient in a loud, blarring bar in Tokyo. As if.

1/03/2005

 
Blogger Trish said...

Amanda, I don't think you're elitist at all. Far from it. If you want to read a fun play by Shakespeare (assuming you haven't read it), as apposed the the usual stuff, read "Titus Andronicus," and then blast the conservative family-values types who yip about violence in cinema. They didn't make a peep about the movie, starring Sir Anthony Hopkins (it's a good movie), and you know how they like to go on about that sort or thing. I always said if anyone made a movie based on that play, the conservatives should have a field day with it, given their procivities,and they had nothing to say. I guess it's okay to for a woman to not be able to identify her rapists when her hands and tongue are cut out, but she's later able to identify them by writing their names in the sand with her arms. Figures.

I love what you said about coffee shops and picking up chicks.It sure does happen. When I work on my novel, I saw it all the time, on top of the soccer moms who have their "adorable" kids in tow running amok all over the place. Drove me nuts. Makes me want to avoid Starbucks, but I keep going back anyway.

1/03/2005

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"why do we feel so damn threatened by the taste of others that even without being snobbed at, we get all defensive? Why is this so damn important?"

My guess is that it has to do with maintaining our social status among people we know. We are constantly (unconsciously or not) measuring ourself against people we know, to see if we "fit in". For some, it's about who has the best car, for others it's about who can memorize the most digits of pi, etc.

-d-

1/04/2005

 
Blogger Ampersand said...

If you ever come to Oregon, I want to introduce you to my friend Phil. He's a prof at Lewis & Clark (his specialty is 19th century Austrian elections), but why I think you'd find him interesting is that he's the biggest fan of rock music I know - he's owns thousands of LPs - and among his many well-nurtured obsessions is an interest in obscure female punk rockers of the 1970s.

Mind you, I don't think I'd be able to follow the conversation - I adore X Ray Spex, but that's as far as my knowlege goes - but I suspect you and he would find something to talk about.

1/04/2005

 
Blogger gone_1 said...

My goal is not so lofty. I just need to actually read all the books I have already bought.

1/04/2005

 
Blogger jeff said...

And of course you do spend at least some time writing everyday--that counts for quite a bit, in my book (pun intended). Probably spending some time writing everyday is better for one's brain than reading Dante (or whatever) every day, if one has to make a choice.

And really, sometimes one does have to make that choice. Although, sometimes on has to choose between watching Escape from Witch Mountain and writing...

1/04/2005

 
Blogger Linnaeus said...

I'm a fan of all sorts of bad 1980s new wave music, and I never apologize for it. Occasionally, some self-appointed arbiter of musical taste tells me that I have none when he or she learns this fact. I usually tell that person, promptly, to fuck off. Or something like that. :)

1/04/2005

 
Blogger Brad Warbiany said...

Reading, in itself, is a major plus for anyone. The smartest people I know read for pleasure, and I don't think it's a coincidence.

As my favorite musical comedy, "Coed Prison Sluts" says, Reading is Fundamental!Most of what I read lately is fluff like Tom Clancy or Robert Ludlum (I like spy thrillers), but just the activity of reading is relaxing for me. And when I occasionally take the time to pick up "literature", that's even better.

1/04/2005

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My "resolution" is to work my way through the operas and a representative selection of the choral works and songs of Benjamin Britten. About two to three major items in these categories are regularly performed: A Ceremony of Carols, Peter Grimes, and more rarely, Billy Budd, all of which I find fascinating.

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