Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Pushkin problem

Times puts this Style essay in the Books section for some reason.

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.

Regardless, do completely agree with these people on the Roark / Proust problem. If I think back, those have been absolute deal-breakers in moi's life. (well, substitute Proust for Joyce)

Pity the would-be Romeo who earnestly confesses middlebrow tastes: sometimes, it’s the Howard Roark problem as much as the Pushkin one. “I did have to break up with one guy because he was very keen on Ayn Rand,” said Laura Miller, a book critic for Salon. “He was sweet and incredibly decent despite all the grandiosely heartless ‘philosophy’ he espoused, but it wasn’t even the ideology that did it. I just thought Rand was a hilariously bad writer, and past a certain point I couldn’t hide my amusement.”

The author recalled a date with one Michael, a “robust blond from Germany.” As he walked to meet him outside Dean & DeLuca, “I saw, to my horror, an artfully worn, older-than-me copy of ‘Proust’ by Samuel Beckett.” That, Burroughs claims, was a deal breaker. “If there existed a more hackneyed, achingly obvious method of telegraphing one’s education, literary standards and general intelligence, I couldn’t imagine it.”


Cheshire Cat said...

Um, I wonder if the robust blond is still single...

Falstaff said...

Been there, done that

Also, that article just ensured that James Collins will have at least one less reader. "way too Virginia Woolf" forsooth!

P said...

I suffer from this syndrome too! I can not imagine being with someone who does not have the same taste in books, movies and music. I keep gifting my bf all translated versions of my favorite Bengali books :)

Phaedrus said...

Well am just glad no one mentioned Camus there! Though it was quite tacky to see the "The Stranger" there :) I have got to admit the deal breaker for me would be someone who goes “Camus WHO?” . Not necessarily because I am a pretentious snob but the chances of the person understanding my existential outlook would be very very limited . It’s all very well to talk about how reading is not important and the “person” is what matters etc etc but what happens when you would really like to watch a movie together which has subtitles or listen to Beethoven and the other person is going all gung ho about Paulo Coelho and Britney spears?

Of course if the Sex is good all the above can be forgiven as it is easier to “cheat” on the side about books,movies and music than you-know-what.

I love your writing btw :)

Veena said...

Cat: Considering anything from this side of the pond is lapped up pretty quickly there, its unlikely. However, if you are particular about Proust-reading robust blond from Germany, I am sure we can find you a couple. :)

Falstaff: Ya, I remember a bunch of posts from long ago around this booksnob topic that finally n! (I think) had to break up!

I am not sure whether it will be less one reader or less one person who claims not be a reader.

p: Well, I don't know. Its only important to me that the person hates the kind of writing I can't stand. If you had the same exact taste in everything, life will be too darned boring and I will never find out anything new.

phaedrus: You know what? It is okay to be a pretentious snob. You can say it :)

See your point but must say I have never really felt like watching a movie (with or without subtitles) or listening to music with anyone. That said, yeah a basic understanding of each others' worldview becomes important though I'd say that books are only of the many necessary but nowhere close to sufficient conditions.

Plus I can't say I subscribe to the if sex is all good everything else is forgiven principle. If I have to make a choice, I'd rather it be the opposite. Sex is a more easily available commodity I'd think.

tabula rasa said...

there's also the whore of mensa.

Veena said...

TR: Yeah thats what I was going to say to phaedrus but that would be giving away my business plan. We are making Bill this whore of Mensa person. BM is doing the panels as we speak.

Phaedrus said...

Oh I was not apologizing for being one and neither did I deny being one :)

Of course ultimately we all strive to get a partner who "understands our world view" ( and importantly is still ok with it ) but how do you establish that without inevitably getting into the kind of music,books and movies one likes? if there is a way kindly let me know :)
I mean I can scarcely hope to bring home the bacon ( forgive the phraseology ) with the opening lines,
"Hi! When one comes right down to it Life really is meaningless. Ipso facto we might as well make the most of our ephemeral existence. So what say? Catch a movie,dinner and hop right home? "

Doesnt work you know :)

Oh I brought in the sex bit to say that it is "ok" to cheat on the side about other stuff except the sacrosanct physical bit.

Oh ofcourse Whore of mensa!! But that would work only in the situation mentioned above. The idea is to make the whore of mensa one's life partner. And that is where the "hitch" is!

Anonymous said...

In the style of William Carlos Williams:

I have read
the Chetan Bhagat
that was in
the dark recesses
of your kitchen pantry

and which
you were probably
for the loo

Forgive me
it was fun
so short
and Proust is so hard.


P said...

I won't really feel bad if the other person has never tried the same things. I will feel bad only if I like/dislike something and the other person didn't feel the same way after trying it.
Does that mean I don't suffer from Pushkin problem then? :)

Veena said...

p: You suffer from the Pushkin problem alright but imo, if you have the same taste in things (beyond a certain acceptable threshold) then life starts to become boring. You will rarely hear a different perspective that you can chew on for a bit even if its only to decide that you don't quite agree with it.

phaedrus: Don't disagree with you. Just saying that books, movies etc. are a little overrated in understanding a person's worldview. I can think of enough examples of people who love all the same books I love and yet have a diametrically diff perspective on things than I would have expected them to have or on the other hand, people who read little and don't particularly like stuff I like but are able to understand how I can have a certain worldview. And I dunno, I'd rather hang out with someone with an open mind and an ability to think than with a pretentious well-read snob (if they are mutually exclusive which does happen quite often)

n!: As always, you rock. But Chetan Bhagat?