Taste

You may remember a few posts back I extolled the virtues of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book about marriage, Committed. ‘I’d be quite interested to read that,’ said Mister Litlove, and with some alacrity, I handed it over. Several hours later I asked how he was getting on.

He made a face. ‘It’s a bit slow,’ he complained. ‘She does go on and on about the same point and I’m waiting for her to get to the next bit.’

Then just the other day, I unearthed my copy of Nicholson Baker’s wonderful novel, The Anthologist, from underneath a pile of my husband’s stuff in the kitchen. It took me a moment to remember why he had it, but then it came back to me. After my glowing review of the book, he’d borrowed it for the train ride to London.

‘What do you think of it?’ I’d asked eagerly, at the time.

‘Well, he has a nice voice and I find it skips along okay while I’m reading it.’

I recognize damning with faint praise when I see it. I’m not sure the book ever made it onto the train a second time. Being married to Mister Litlove forces me time and again to consider the perplexing problem of taste, because ours are surprisingly different. His side of the bed is a graveyard, often, for the books that have triumphed on mine. Where books are concerned, he is critical and picky. It surprises me how few there are (particularly in fiction) that have been an unqualified success for him – I can think of Bonfire of the Vanities, David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green, J. G. Ballard’s Super-Cannes. None of these are books I would rush to read myself, and yet I like to I think of myself as one of the most eclectic readers I know.

And then when it comes to television, everything changes. Mister Litlove has a terrible reputation in this household for his abiding passion for dreadful tv. Made for tv movies, The Scorpion King, new and experimental comedy series put in awkward time slots on BBC2 (or worse, BBC4). Whatever you may think is just too awful for anyone to watch, you’ll find Mister Litlove glued to. When my son and I flick through the channels and declare ‘There’s nothing on’, Mister Litlove will demur. For him, there is always something on. He’s like a one-man charity; there is no programme too misconceived or ridiculous or unlovable for his welcoming embrace.

Taste is such a peculiar thing. Where do our tastes come from? How are we to understand them? Back in the eighteenth century, philosophers like Kant and Hume wrote a great deal about aesthetics, or the creation and appreciation of beauty. They believed that education and class determined our tastes, but the finer points of this discussion elude me. For one thing, I simply cannot bear Enlightenment philosophy; in a delightful irony, it is not to my taste. It makes my brain glaze over, and for this very reason I am prejudiced against it. But I also think its premises are out of date. Mister Litlove and I have had very similar educations and we share a certain social strata and yet our tastes are wildly different. In a very democratic culture, where high art is no longer the exclusive property of the rich and educated, and where popular art is encouraged because of its commercial potential, taste is not so easily determined.

No, I think taste in artworks, be they books or films or paintings or whatever, is an unfolding quality that develops out of the intersection of nebulous things. I do think it’s about where we come from, but it’s also about where we’d like to be headed. As such, taste is a measure of our rebellion and our compliance. It’s about our gut response to the familiar and to the alien. It’s about where we do and do not want to be in our heads; and in this way, taste is built up out of our desires for escape, as well as our aspirations for understanding. It’s about what we find comforting, reassuring, exciting and seductive. I think our taste resides along a certain knife-edge where challenge is balanced out by security. You might be able to describe the parameters of the space, but its coordinate point location would be different for everyone. It’s an emotional and psychological accident, which is why no one can lord it over anyone else as far as their taste is concerned (except I claim the right to tease Mister Litlove about television because, well, really).

Over at the literary blog hop, the task is to describe a book we read in college and hated. My prize goes to the collected works of Voltaire, whom I loathed. I’ll single out one of his books for special mention here: Candide. Candide is a novel that lots of people like; it’s a picaresque tale of the eponymous hero who goes on a global journey that (to my mind like any journey) lurches the travelers from disaster to catastrophe. Anything that can go wrong, does go wrong. This all takes place in a jolly cartoon-style format, where we barely pause to weep over the victims before swinging onto the next apocalyptic chapter. And all the while the on-board philosopher intones that ‘all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds’, an ironic message there of sledgehammer subtlety.

Why is this book not to my taste? Well, let’s start by pointing out that I was a mere 18 when I read it, at my most idealistic about literature. I thought it could save the world, and that it could certainly save me from the perils of youth, naivety and general bewilderment. At the time, this story horrified me, by its callous outlook, its surreality, its emphasis on chaos and futility. All this was apparently balanced out if you found it funny; I most certainly did not. It challenged me, mocked my sensibilities, and seemed unable to offer me anything reparative to cling to by way of understanding of the human condition. I thought it was a very silly book.

And what would happen if I returned to it now, all those years of experience later? Alas, I would hate it still. I’ve come to recognize a certain kind of narrative that repels me, one bound up with a sort of plasticky satire, which fails to touch reality. Only last year I tried to read Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita and barely reached the second page. I need a thread of tender humanity to attach me to a story, a recognizable quality of sensual life as we live it and breathe it. I’ve come to understand that I use literature to think through life, to open up the world I already know and reveal its deeper layers. The more a book does that, the more it is to my taste.

33 thoughts on “Taste

  1. ‘taste is a measure of our rebellion and our compliance’ Oh I like this description very much. I think I can easily see this kind of response when people apply critical schools of thinking to their reading, but I’d never thought about it in terms of the aesthetic attributes, or genres we like. So do you think we can expand our taste as we expand our understanding of the familiar and unknown, or do you think we can come to understand the value of what we didn’t like, as well as the flaws in what we did like, but our base enjoyment taste stays the same?

    ‘experimental comedy series put in awkward time slots on BBC2’ one of my favourite things ever! I’m loving Episodes and The Great Outdoors at the moment (the one about rambling). Although I can’t get on with that Fast and Loose thing that is on again tonight, even though it’s a Hugh Dennis project.

  2. Fascinating post, as always. Taste is a funny thing, isn’t it? I am, for example, completely at a loss to explain my affinity for sometimes extremely dark fiction, when most people wouldn’t see me as a gloomy sort of person. But I’ve always loved tragic stories.

    I haven’t read Candide, but I saw a marvelous stage production of it just last month, and I do want to read it. I did find the production to be funny–darkly funny and a little madcap, which is right up my alley. I actually found Master and Margarita to be funny in a similar way.

  3. I read Candide in French class in high school–second semester of first year, I think? I did not get a bit of it, needless to say.

    I too just say a stage production (the same one Teresa saw perhaps, at the DC Shakespeare Theater?) and am eager to read it now.

    It certainly is an odd little book that fits into a particular place in literary history. Approaching it as a good read might not work. If you run across any great background books, please pass the titles along!

  4. And Candide is next on my TBR list… Oh, well. Will be interesting to see what I come away with. I just restarted The Satanic Verses and I’m thinking Candide will be a nice counterpoint. Although, perhaps not?

    I love how you articulated your husbands taste in television. Gave me quite the wonderful giggle. Truth be told, in this house, there’s some obnoxious and bad television I like and there’s some obnoxious/bad television my husband likes. Generally, we just avoid television though. Too much of it falls into that very large category of “so bad we won’t watch it”. Tell me, did Mister Litlove watch the BBC version of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” with Sean Bean? TERRIBLE adaptation (that I only watched two episodes of).

  5. I read Candide just a few months ago and really enjoyed it but …

    as you say so well, our tastes are meant to differ because “its coordinate point location would be different for everyone.” I have a really weird sense of taste it bounces around from genre to genre a lot and it changes a lot.

    You really nailed how unique each person’s appreciation for art is.

  6. Excellent post. Your husband sounds like a very kind man. Or a freak.
    On your divergent taste: what about gender? I’m willing to bet that your childhoods were very different even if your schooling was similar. He’ll have been given ‘boys’ toys and books, and you won’t. Even if you both chose gender-ignoring texts on your own, the gendered culture will have shaped your horizons and that of the people who looked after you/socialised with you etc.

  7. I’m afraid I’m also not a lover of Candide. It seems to me to be a bit cruel and while I can be that myself, it is something I endeavour not to do “out loud;” such behaviour is something I abhor. The piece of literature I hated was Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. Even while I was reading it (for a class), I could recognize his brilliance at catching character and at the same time was so deeply horrified at how he “caught” them. I remember exclaiming heatedly to my professor (a wonderful woman and a superb teacher)that Anderson was a vivisectionist. He was quite merciless in his exposure of his created people; he flayed them – especially, it seemed, the women. I suppose it is a mark of how good a writer he was that it felt as if he had destroyed real people.

    So my taste most definitely is a result of my past exposure to the cruelty of others and its consequences. As for my compliance, I was primarily a self-educated child and going to school as an adult was a bit of a shock, but the influence of many, many classes and a few outstanding profs, and I have learnt to appreciate texts that in my life as an autodidact I almost certainly would never have been able to understand or even find. So I think my “compliance” with the rules of education has had a (mostly) positive effect on the development of my reading, and more generally, my artistic taste.

    As for TV – don’t watch it. Turns my brains to mush in no time.

  8. I would point to Bourdieus’s book La distinction. Very interesting, a bit old, and very dense but still revealing when it comes to the analysis of taste and how it is related to socialization. I’m sure you know it. As for Candide… Well I studied French but my specialization stops where yours begins (from the Middle Ages to Enlightenment and beginning of the 19th), therefore I value Voltaire in a different way. The “problem with Voltaire is that his main aim was to “feed” his philosophy disguised as “conte”… I can understand you didn’t like Candide, I sort of do not like Voltaire either, as a writer, but appreciate him as a philosopher. I have a feeling I didn’t make sense. This post actually made me think of Montaigne and I like him a lot.

  9. Oh I laughed about Mr. Litlove! I think he and my husband may have been separated at birth. Bookman never ceases to amaze me over what he will watch. He has a special fondness for zombie movies that I just don’t understand. I also don’t understand his fondness for pulp scifi and fantasy, the pulpier the better. But I’m sure he finds some of the things I like baffling too!

  10. Voltaire. I can’t recall if I’ve ever read anything by him, but I remember quite a bit of time was taken up in one of my history classes discussing the impact of his writing on the French and American Revolutions. If I remember correctly, through his writing he was a strong supporter of social justice for the downtrodden, but in his real life he rubbed elbows and partied with the elite who were at the heart of most of the social ills of his time. I might have it wrong, but that is what I can recall. I think it left a rather bad impression of Voltaire in my mind. Nevertheless, I’ve already made a promise to myself to read him this year. Great post – and hilariously thinking of Mr. Litlove in front of the television enjoying Father Tim – or is it Father Ted? (What was that the name of the series? Bad…truly and wonderfully awful. I couldn’t get enough.).

  11. Nooo! Not Candide! I’m shocked to find this here, really. It was so freaking funny – and important. Hm. I guess it’s not to everyone’s taste, but to hate it? I’m heartbroken.

  12. Debnance – I think there’s a general problem with being obliged to read books. I never get on quite so well with something I haven’t chosen myself or had some curiosity about beforehand. I didn’t feel like that always when I was a teenager – then I needed someone to guide my reading, at least to begin with. But it was also good to have the possibility of putting down something I wasn’t enjoying! I completely agree that one person’s turkey is another’s Pulitzer prize winner, and that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

    Jodie – oho you have just made a friend for life in Mister Litlove there! And I do love Hugh Dennis, as a general rule, and would give that one a watch once, just in case. As for expanding taste, I do think we can certainly expand appreciation. And if that’s put in the right context, say, where reading more widely or more deeply is valued and appreciated, then I think it is possible to broaden one’s taste. At university, I read and enjoyed lots of books that I wouldn’t be able to get through now. I could read them perfectly well in order to write about them, and enjoy that process. Now, they are much tougher reads for me.

    Teresa – both the Bulgakov and the Voltaire are books that are loved and cherished by many! It’s just there’s a kind of quality to them that I can’t abide. Like pesto sauce, for instance, which loads of people love but which makes me sick! I completely agree that taste is a VERY peculiar thing, and it can be really hard to trace back all the threads in it. I’d love to know what you think of Candide – it’s certainly a classic!

    Lifetime Reader – oh I wish I could help there, but the 18th century really is before my teaching era – I begin at 1830 and go forward from there. If I come across anything in my travels, I will certainly let you know. I don’t think it’s a great book for 18 year olds, but if I say that, comments to the contrary will pour in!🙂 I do hope you enjoy it when you return to it. Much is improved by age, I find.

    Kimberly – oh we most certainly did see that adaptation of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, although it was a while back and rather hazy now! I can’t poke fun really as there is plenty of bad tv I like too. Actually, I’m worse with movies. I like Hitchcock (before he got really violent) and Woody Allen, and after that it’s Doris Day and Cary Grant all the way….. And you may well love Candide! Go for it – I’m adoring the pairing with The Satanic Verses!

    dragonfly – I’m delighted that you enjoyed Candide. It’s clearly lasted since the 18th century for a reason! But absolutely, our tastes are so particular and so varied, there’s no point in worrying when they don’t coincide. Much better to be pleased that we all like different things which makes for a wonderful variety of books out there.

    Plashing Vole – lol! For the sake of harmony chez Litlove, let’s say he’s very kind. But definitely, gender makes a difference. No way would Mister Litlove read a domestically-based narrative, and the books written by women have been few and far between. For the university I read everything. But now I’m not teaching so much literature I certainly find myself sliding towards more women authors. (And if I didn’t think it were too contentious, I’d also say that humour can be rather gendered too.) What can you do? In the past, I’d drum up enthusiasm for all sorts of things, but now I’m getting lazy, and just like what I like.

    Mary – I feel my responses are very similar. I don’t like cruel stuff, even when it’s destined to be funny, and I also feel very grateful to university for having introduced me to so many different authors and helping me to appreciate them. So, very alike there.

    Caroline – I have read very little Bourdieu so thank you very much for that recommendation! I very much like what you say about Voltaire and quite see that approached from the philosophical angle, he might be much improved. Funnily enough, the author I’d like to return to from the 18th is Rousseau. For some reason he draws me back to give him another go.

    Bluestocking – lol!!

    Stefanie – they are twins. No other explanation for it! Not quite identical ones though…😉 Mister Litlove is OFTEN perplexed by my choices – lol! Thankfully we have two televisions, which stops a lot of the grumbling….

    Grad – Father Ted, and yes, he adores that one! You have him sussed! I know nothing about Voltaire, but think your explanation of him sounds spot on. But I will also look forward very much to your thoughts on Voltaire when you go back to him. I wouldn’t necessarily want to return to his work, but I’m most curious to read other people’s experiences with him!

    Adam – I’m so sorry! It’s always a shame when other people don’t get your best-loved books, and believe me, I would love Candide if I could! Anyway, you can rest assured that it is a good book (wouldn’t have lasted otherwise) and that loads and loads of other readers love it too.

  13. Adore Voltaire, Lets say that again I absolutely adore voltaire, I’ve said before that if he was alive today, he would be the most cutting edge, politically orientated stand up comedian, by the way did i say i liked him.

  14. “I’ve come to understand that I use literature to think through life, to open up the world I already know and reveal its deeper layers.” That is beautifully said and I can relate to it.

    I wonder how much of taste is genetic. For eg, everybody’s sense of smell is unique and due to genetic mutations, most people have odds and ends olfactory blind spots, where they can’t smell particular odours. That would certainly affect taste. What if there is something similar in less concrete forms of preferences?

    I like that there are all kinds of tastes. It makes for a more interesting world.

  15. Taste is so mystifying. I am always saddened and caught off guard when people I am very, very fond of don’t like books of which I am also very fond. I am fond of the people and the books! Why can’t they love each other? The other thing is that I can never work out what the guidelines for my own taste are — my parameters won’t map! There’s exceptions to every rule I can think to make for myself (which of course makes me think that other people’s taste isn’t set in stone, and thus I sometimes recommend them things I know they probably won’t like).

  16. Interesting post… this is something I always think about as a film lover, but never can come up with a definite answer. While inclination and personality traits might be hereditary, I believe that taste is mostly acquired, a good e.g. is sushi’s. Having said that, I know from experience that taste can easily be altered too, or that we can adopt new taste through some totally unrelated situations. I can testify to one instance, where from an episode of Boston Legal (the only series I followed), that I’d learned to appreciate the surrealist artist Magritte. That’s the episode about a girl who cannot smile due to a facial muscular problem. She learns about Magritte in school and is impressed by his works, in particular, the painting of the pipe, entitled ‘This Is Not A Pipe’. Well, after that she paints a self-portrait of herself: a blank face without a smile, entitles it “This is not myself”, for underneath the seemingly emotionless face is a lively personality that negates the appearance. And that did it… I acquired the taste for surrealist Magritte’s art after that. Back to your post, I’m afraid I had the same feeling as Mr. Litlove about The Anthologist. I read it when it first came out, but by now I’m afraid I’ve forgotten how the story goes. But then again, this could well be a problem of memory rather than taste.😉

  17. I have to comment again because of Rousseau. I was thinking of him the whole time when I was reading your post about Duras… For me he is THE example of a writer whose life and work are contradictions. Imagine he wrote Emile ou de l’éducation (and others), presenting his revolutionary thoughts on pedagogy and education, but gave away his own children… I loved his Rêveries du promeneur solitaire…

  18. Your discussion of taste is quite interesting. It’s so difficult to pinpoint. I’m always amazed at the way my tastes change!

    Candide! I know I read it during my school days, but can’t remember if it was for school or not. It probably was. I liked it, but it looks like the class discussion mustn’t have been that interesting…

  19. What is taste? What I like! What is lack of taste or bad taste? What someone else likes, unless it’s the same as my taste. Where does taste come from? God knows! [or Nobody knows if you’re an atheist and God knows is not to your taste]. Of course you may find comments like this superficial or even, dare I say, tasteless! Taste, that is your taste or mine, is part of the self, or if there is no self part of the construction that we create and offer to the world and ourselves as passing for the self. [I only put that in as I know of your taste for the Theorists]. If that is the case then taste is something which tells us and others who we are, providing our performances of taste are not constrained for effect, but genuine. These keys to the self [construction aside], may unlock who we are or wish to be. Having read your blog for quite some time I think your dislike of Candide may be because it puts ideas above human beings, it is a machine and people are its fodder. As an apparatus it has some kinship with the horrors of dictatorship, which devastate individuals’ lives for the sake of an idea or ideology. I gave up on the book too, but I am aware that it may have come from the devastated reaction Voltaire had to the Lisbon earthquake which I think he saw for himself. He could not reconcile what he saw to the idea of a loving God, and there were writers in his time, putting forward the view that it was the best of possible worlds. They found ingenious (if that’s the correct term) examples everywhere – the tides had been made to rise and fall to allow ships to bring goods to the land, so as to avoid the hazards of transfer to small boats and the extra work and danger of such procedures, I think was one I read of, long ago! No doubt this knowledge would be consoling if you had just lost everything in an earthquake! I hope I have not misrepresented you in what are my tentative thoughts. If I have I’m sure you will put me right, just as I’m sure we must share the best of all possible taste in the worst of all tasteless worlds!!!
    PS – I hope you read this in the spirit it was written in, all taste aside!

  20. A fascinating post! Are you and Mr Litlove opposite in other ways? My husband and I have quite similar taste in books – we agree on Austen, Brontes, Dickens and Clive Cussler – and TV, but have very different personalities. Wondering if taste is an expression of a hidden personality or the lower reaches of it which are not often exposed?

    I shall have to get my hands on that Gilbert though.

  21. What a fascinating post! Taste is indeed a conundrum. I struggle mentally with the Husband who is NOT stupid but never learned to love reading; I try to read out loud to him and bemoan our failure. He’s very active, restless, hands on. He gets up to fix things, build things, clean the garage, repair bicycles and cars, bake bread, sew buttons onto shirts, make elaborate French sauces, and mow the yard, about which I do not complain. (He can’t watch movies, either.) I enjoy Homer and Austen for FUN as well as Michael Connelly and Lee Child. He recently read an ENTIRE Lee Child novel, possibly the first book he’s read in its entirety in our together-life. I was so excited! (He had to fly Houston-Newark-Houston.) He’s a perfectly intelligent man. And by the way, it’s a distant memory but I remember LOVING Candide, so there you go. I think it’s a little bit crazy to judge people by their tastes. I have library patrons every day that apologize and self-deprecate for reading “trashy” or “light” romance, pop, action/mystery, sci-fi, or any number of things. Stop apologizing! Just enjoy. If you model your life around Nora Roberts or James Patterson I might be concerned, but do we, really?

  22. If there’s no accounting for taste, I suppose there is no such thing as bad taste (though maybe when it’s really, really bad taste..), which makes me feel better as I sometimes wonder about myself. I like the idea of using literature to think through life and maybe in a way I do that as well (though not sure how reading so many murder mysteries fits into it all), though I do know I don’t work well in the abstract. I have a hard time wrapping my brain around those sorts of stories, and I get the feeling that the Bulgakov and I wouldn’t get along well either.

  23. I actually think The Master and Margarita is full of tender humanity, with not one bit of plastic. Satire, yes, sometimes, and surreality, but none of the characters are flat or cartoonish in the way you find in Candide. There are scenes of love, and others of forgiveness and redemption, that made me weep. Candide surely never made anyone weep? But if you’re allergic, that is that. I’m abandoning a book right now that I expect people to tell me I should have finished!

    I’d like to have Voltaire over to dinner (as opposed to Rousseau, who was a sop) but I never really liked to read him, except his scintillating letters.

  24. How could anyone not love The Anthologist? Really?🙂 It’s so easy to move from “I like something” to “everyone should like it” or “this is most definitely a great work of art and everyone should agree with me.” I suppose it’s impossible to keep from doing a little bit of that, but I find it very helpful to keep in mind that, well, there’s no accounting for taste!

  25. Believe it or not, I read Candide when I was around the same age and I actually liked it. I think it could have been that I just felt so “worldly” for reading something that most of my friends were not! haha.. Ok, at one point I may have been a bit of a book snob🙂

    Taste is a funny thing and I think it’s one reason why sometimes I hesitate when I’m writing reviews. I think I love this book but how about if someone picks it up on my recommendation and hates it. I just have to remember that we are all different and we bring in our personal experiences to books we read so we’ll all view things differently.

  26. I have not read any Voltaire. But I did download for free to my eReader so maybe someday I’ll dip into it and see if I like it.
    But I do want to read Committed and knowing that you enjoyed it AND that another friend I admire hated it just makes me want to read it more! Isn’t it funny that we can gauge if we might like something on either a good or bad ‘taste’ impression?
    FUN post.

  27. Parrish – oh dear! Whenever I dislike something people do seem to come over defensive. Loads of people love this book and I’m glad that you do, too.

    Lilian – I’m all for all kinds of taste. It would be dull if we all liked the same things. I’m not sure about genetic determinism, though. It would be so hard to sort out from natural influence, and the associations with early childhood. But who knows what scientists will uncover in time, I guess!

    Jenny – I quite agree that I’ve often read books that really ought to be exactly right for me and they’ve bombed, or indeed made tentative forays into stories that don’t tick the right boxes but end up being amazing experiences. I think the context in which the book is read is often influential too (what we just read before it, our mood and situation, etc). Here’s hoping all your friends see the light about the books you love best.🙂

    Arti – it’s interesting, isn’t it, how differently people relate to artworks and how some experiences with them can be transformative. I tend to find that my passions are spontaneous and unstoppable, and that I can grow to appreciate things I haven’t initially liked, but not to be passionate about them. Not that this is necessarily a good thing – I think it’s best to be as open as possible about as much as possible. I do quite like Magritte and find some of his images hypnotic (and some very disturbing). I appreciate him, but I don’t know that I’d want to live with him pictures on the wall.

    Caroline – that’s very interesting indeed. One of these days I really must return to Rousseau. I find him a most intriguing character.

    Em – I think my taste in art has changed much more than my taste in books. I tend still to like the sorts of books I liked when I was younger. But I can appreciate a broader range. It would be interesting to see how much you remembered of Candide if you looked at it again now – and whether it brought memories back!

    Bookboxed – Bravo! What a magnificent disquisition on taste and Voltaire. I think you have it exactly right. I DO dislike that book because it puts ideas above humans and it is extremely clever of you to spot that. I also like what you have to say about it, which suggests that it was Voltaire’s frustrated despair to the unpredictability and inherent tragedy of life that made him write it. Now that, I can get behind.

    Yvann – we are different in all possible ways! Really we are chalk and cheese. I love what you say about taste as an expression of hidden personalities, much as our appearance in our own dreams shows us a very different sort of self. Oh and by the way, I tried to comment on your site but for some reason couldn’t get let in to it. I will try again another day.

    PagesofJulia – absolutely! There’s never any need to apologise for taste – just like what you like! When you think about it, it’s a bit of an insult to any author to say, I know I shouldn’t like your work but I do. Much better to stand up for what gives you pleasure. I’m perfectly happy for other people to love Candide – all books deserve adoring readers, and I’m only sorry when I can’t be among their number. As for husbands, isn’t it amazing what Lee Child can do? My husband also read one of his books – in one day! And then went on to read another. Although he had started complaining by the second that it was too similar to the first (I don’t think he’s got the hang of what genre fiction’s about!). Good luck with getting your husband to read more. I found audio books on car journeys to be well received.

  28. Danielle – there really is no accounting for taste, and I’m entertained by so many bloggers here saying that they can’t predict their own. I think that’s healthy in a way – it means we can still be surprised by ourselves, and find we’re more flexible than we thought. That has to be a good thing! I know I love reading a bit of everything. Oh and I think murder mysteries are about thinking through all kinds of things – our fears and our sense of vulnerability, as well as our persistent feelings of guilt and the sort of anger and rage we don’t like to admit. I think they do a really good job of bundling all that up in a narrative that never makes you feel anything other than an innocent spectator!

    Jenny – I should clearly have read more than a couple of pages of the Bulgakov! But it’s funny isn’t it, how something that really speaks to one person can be a closed book (in all senses!) to another. There’s nothing much to be done about it, really, although we long to be excellent advocates (and believe me, I am the biggest advocate of reading per se and often feel frustrated I can’t convert more to my cause). The literary dinner party is such a good game to play. Who would you have to partner Voltaire? Goethe, perhaps or someone completely different – Marilyn Monroe?

    Gautami – I wonder how many schools are responsible for putting young people off reading? I never got on with Dickens, or indeed Shakespeare after school ruined them for me!

    Dorothy – lol! I know! Who couldn’t love it? It must be because love for a book is sort of pervasive – there is no corner of my mind left over to register possible critical feelings. Mostly I’m fine with someone not liking what I like, but every now and then I come across a dissenting voice and think, Really???🙂

    iliana – is there anything more terrifying than knowing someone has bought a book to read on your recommendation? Sometimes I get chills down the spine. I also think that expectations are a huge obstacle to books. If you approach a novel feeling confident you’ll adore it, or buoyed up by a glowing review, it seems so much more likely that the experience itself will fall short. Aagghh! Makes reviewing a minefield!

    Care – ooh I admit I am particularly drawn to books where there is controversy and a big split between the lovers and the haters. I would love to know what you make of Committed, which at the moment is a book I cannot imagine anyone hating!🙂

    Kathleen – I’m sure it can only say very good things!

  29. Pingback: Pequea Valley Reader's Blog

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