The Troublesome Book Readers

I am, in some ways, a persnickety reader. Not in matters of “taste,” exactly. I like high, low, and in-between. But there are certain things that I take irritable, irrational umbrage at, and in particular: when the narrator is a reader. And not just a reader but a loudly proclaimed lover of Books and Reading and Literature. The descriptive phrase, “She always had her nose in a book,” type of thing.

I am annoyed by my own annoyance in this. Of course the narrator is a reader; we are all readers here, in all likelihood: the writer, the reader, the characters. Even so, there is something about a writer writing rhapsodically and approvingly about a character’s curling up with a book, or the close and personal relationship a character has with other fictional characters. It just makes me say, “No!” Not that I stop reading exactly. I very rarely stop reading altogether, which is a post for another time. But I rebel, secretly, and feel pandered to, and just generally pissed off.

The writer is instantaneously transformed into Mary Bennet for me, like so (this is stolen from here, as for inexplicable reasons all Jane Austen has fled my room): “Far be it from me, my dear sister, to depreciate such pleasures. They would doubtless be congenial with the generality of female minds. But I confess they would have no charms for me. I should infinitely prefer a book.

That self-congratulatory air of pleasure with oneself. How did Jane Austen get it so exactly and painfully? But that’s it, that is the person who appears before me.

But—and here’s (part of) the problem: having this bias is definitely as annoying, at least, as self-satisfiedly writing a character with the problem. My only apology/defense is that at least I am not fictional, and have a degree of self-awareness about it all.

The real question I have is: does this bug anyone else?

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