Thursday, March 15, 2012

Love Me, Love This Book

There's a sort of popular line of thinking among people who read concerning the books they love, one that I've seen discussed among the most bookish of us. If you recommend a beloved book to someone and that person likes the book as well, GREAT! Everyone wins. If the person doesn't like it...well it's okay because it's revealing about that person, and you can learn something more about them and why they didn't love this book you loved. I totally get thinking this way and I probably agree with it for a lot of books and people. But...when it comes to a really beloved book or piece of art, or a really beloved person I have to admit I don't. Not really. I want the people I love to love the things I love. I know it's selfish and impractical and not at all like real life, but within the limitations of my own humanity, it's what I want deep down. And on the flip side of that, I do want to love the art the people I love, love.

I was thinking about this because the other day Ana reviewed, When You Reach Me and included this quote, "The truth is that I hate to think about other people reading my book. It’s like watching someone go through the box of private stuff that I keep under my bed."

Jenny responded to that in comments saying, "God I do NOT EVEN UNDERSTAND people who don't want people to read the books they love. I have seen this sentiment expressed so many places and it is utterly foreign to me. Why would you NOT want people to like the same books you love? If you like the people, then yay! You can have a pleasant conversation about that book!, and if you don't like them, then hooray, now you and they have something in common you can talk about." She only mentions people you like or don't like, not so much the possibility that people you like may not like the things you love, but it made me think about this.

There is some art that is so profoundly moving and so personal, that I almost hesitate to share with others just how much it has meant to me. Art like this reaches into the isolation that surrounds us on a daily basis and touches something within us that maybe we didn't even know was there, or it becomes a vehicle through which we realize our own feelings, or it shatters that persistent feeling that "I'm the only one." Art can connect us to the larger experience of being human. To share our love for it can be something almost intimate, though we can never fully share the experience. And people are so quick, especially I feel like on the internet, on Twitter and Tumblr and blogs to criticize, to find the things wrong with a given thing, to state their displeasure. And they can also be quick to jump to assumptions about why people like what they like (the stuff about Ann Romney pinning Anna Karenina on her Pinterest board meaning she was open to extramarital affairs had me rolling my eyes), such as what Ana discussed in the comments of this post, when she said, "It's also interesting to consider that it's usually the person who thinks of the thing in question as bread pudding that is considered lacking - seeing depth where others fail to see it is usually perceived as a sign of being dim, guillable and easily manipulated, whereas finding something others found rewarding shallow is seen as a sign of perceptiveness, intelligence, and willingness to "tell it as it is". We assume that the first person was carried away by their emotions, while the second did a lot of thinking." If I tell you that a certain book was profoundly moving to me, and you end up finding it trite and cliche you might even make certain assumptions about me. I think the way fans of Twilight are often characterized is proof enough of this.

In fact, some of the things I love have been met with such consistent reaction I've almost adopted an apologetic preface to stating I like them. For example, I loved Tree of Life so much--I was really deeply moved by it. But I haven't found a lot of other people that liked it in quite the same way so when mentioning that I loved it, I often quickly add, "but I know it's not for everyone." I even stopped mentioning it half of the time around the Oscars because it just wasn't a movie people wanted to talk about. Mockingjay deeply divided Hunger Games fans and I found myself saying I loved it, but of course I could see why others didn't. For the most part I don't mind this...but when it comes to people I love...

I want them to like what I like. Not everything, of course, just the stuff I really love. When you love something, some art, and it helps you feel less alone, and it makes you feel more connected, or it makes you smarter, or feel more alive, than to have someone you love start in with flippant criticism can drive a shard of isolation back into your heart.

Obviously I know that it's impossible for people to feel the same big things about stuff that I feel and that it can rarely happen that you actually share a love for a work of art with someone close to you. But I can understand the sentiment of wanting to keep a book to myself in some ways...I'd rather a person I love and respect not read something I've loved than read it and hate it.

But just to set your minds at ease, I don't feel that way with most books, or films, or TV shows, or music and I'm happy to have lots of conversations about them. It's just a few special things that come along once in awhile that mean so much to me I'd rather keep them all to myself than watch a person I love and respect tear it apart.


Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to comment! I appreciate hearing your thoughts.