Friday, March 17, 2006

today : you don't like me! you don't like me!

Taking tea yesterday afternoon with my friend Eleanor, I noticed that she was reading a Dan Brown novel. She enjoyed it, she said. I for one don't have any interest in Dan Brown novels. I tried reading the first couple of chapters of The DaVinci Code once in an airport, but it bored me.

We are overwhelmed with choice and one of my arbitrary rules for not reading a novel is that it contains religious conspiracies and made up history of secret societies. Stuff about the Vatican is especially a no no. There seem to be a load of people obsessed with the death of Roberto Calvi. Am I interested? It's a bit like the films of Mary Steenburgen. For no particular reason I just don't like her, therefore don't watch films that she's in (actually I broke this rule when watching the underrated and unfairly cancelled Joan of Arcadia). Sally Field - don't like her, she makes my teeth hurt. Andie MacDowell, her either, can't and no amount of L'oreal products will maker her attractive to me. That woman out of ER, whatsername, don't watch ER since she became one of the main characters. Chevy Chase - don't like him and never watch any of his films.

We have access to thousands upon thousands of cultural objects. Books, music, TV, film, games, and somehow you have to whittle it down to manageable fields of choice. I think arbitrary rules based completely on your own irrational prejudices are as good as anything. After all, the canon of anything is simply that - often created by the taste of an influential few. The literary canon that I still have to teach is based on the bizarre 'moral' choices of folk like FR Leavis. So what's wrong with me dismissing, for example, any novel that features elves, goblins and wizards? Or where an Professor is the cental character. I am sure some of them are pretty good. But life's too short to find out.

I am not interested in the identity of Jack the Ripper. I just don't care who did it. I am not interested in The Holy Grail, which helps me avoid plenty of novels and films, because it seems to crop up quite a bit. I can't be doing with fantasy worlds of any kind. I can just about deal with Magic realism kind of fantasy, but anything set in an imaginary world of the author's imagination I can't be bothered with. (although I quite liked Michael Marshall Smith's sci-fi novels Only Forward and Spares) Gilbert and Sullivan, New Age music, prog rock - not interested. Set in a dystopian near-future - yawn, must-read! - must not!, critics rave about it - probably over-rated, imagining what would have happened if history didn't happen the way it really did - what???

We lead busy lives. Eleanor has a career, a kid and one on the way. Sometimes she just can't face 'literature'. I worked hard all week and in my downtime, y'know what? Most of the time I just want to relax with a good story that's not too taxing, convoluted and self-important. Tonight I will watching American Idol and Hustle. At bedtime I might read a couple of chapters of Michael Connelly.

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