Thursday, April 03, 2008

Gauging Compatibility ... Through Books

Some years ago, I was awakened early one morning by a phone call from a friend. She had just broken up with a boyfriend she still loved and was desperate to justify her decision. “Can you believe it!” she shouted into the phone. “He hadn’t even heard of Pushkin!”

We’ve all been there. Or some of us have. Anyone who cares about books has at some point confronted the Pushkin problem: when a missed — or misguided — literary reference makes it chillingly clear that a romance is going nowhere fast.
Rachel Donadio in the New York Times writes about how we might seek out a compatible partner based on the stuff he or she reads. Social networking sites like Facebook also make it easy to check out tastes, and my much beloved Library Thing, let's you walk around someone's entire collection ... and give them a thorough checking out.

Postscript :

I liked Francesca Steele's comment on this in the Times :
It's not so much the books you read as the way you talk about them. Give me a man who can explain his Harry Potter addiction with real enthusiasm and originality over a Nietzsche appraisal swiped from the Literary Review any day. And, FYI, Paolo and Francesca ended up together for ever, floating aimlessly around the second circle of Hell. You have to hope that they had something more in common than a book club.
(Thanks Dina for sending me the link.)

12 comments:

Kak Teh said...

sharon, those days, I sometimes carried the thesaurus with me. A guy who was trying to create an impression asked me, Is that a good novel?
That spelt an abrupt end of what could have been a beautiful relationship.
Instead, a few months later, my other half lent me his book on Groucho Marx, which we both thoroughly enjoyed!

KayKay said...

Actually, am not so fussed if a chick likes books I wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole. But I do demand a certain amount of compatibility where tastes in movies are concerned.
Many a promising date went no further when I glanced sideways to see her covering her eyes during a fight scene!
A girl you can't watch Kung Fu Movies with???Where's the future in that?

Lydia Teh said...

kaykay, better a girl you can't watch kung fu movies with than one who would practise her kung fu on you.

animah said...

Hmmm. Never really thought of compatability based on reading. Political views are very important to me.

animah said...

Isn't Pushkin some CEO or something?

lil ms d said...

eeissh am guilty. but then again i did er stop seeing this young man many years ago cos he wore those scritchy scrotchy sweat pants. the ones that make that funny noise, skkkrreettgh shiishhh skkreettcch.

but back to books, as long as he reads i am fine. political views are fine too. what matters is great conversations that last well into the night and right up to the next day. and so on etc etc

savante said...

Judging by those standards, I'd find it hard to find a partner :) Most guys I know hardly read anything more than the funnies.

Sham said...

Hmmm...interesting - have never actually dated a man with similar reading tastes. But I did once refuse to date this guy any longer because he thought the Bridge over the river kwai was just a movie.

animah said...

Sham, it's a book?

bibliobibuli said...

sham - it's a bridge?

Dean said...

I've given up worrying about whether the person I squeeze is into my interests. It's all about 'genre' today, anyway. (Will this word ever enter the general lexicon?) The phase of civilisation we're currently in (profound dystopian anxiety) precludes any sort of serious discussion anyway. Of broader interest are physical peculiarities of writers, their income, and whether they were jailed for obscenity (oooooohhhhh). Biographies (even better, films) about writers sell better than their novels. Capote? The proof is in reading a review by a famous writer nobody reads on a book by an ex-druggie-turned-author whose earlier book was made into a movie starring Heath ledger (now dead under mysterious circumstances). The work of the reviewing author, no doubt excellent and due (in a couple of decades after his death), is of zero interest to the general populace.

So who cares what they think?

Murakami seems to draw the chicks, BTW.

Burhan said...

here's the famous joke (often attributed to either lenny bruce or jerry seinfeld):

if you want someone with the same tastes, who is similar to you in many ways, or meets all your set criteria, then you're a narcissist and think too highly of yourself.

but if you want someone completely different, then you hate yourself and have low self-esteem.

how to solve this dilemma? i don't think it's possible.