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Intellectual House o' Pancakes Webdiary

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2008-10-23 - 12:33 p.m.

I have spent lots of hours and words (and blog posts) either directly or indirectly defining my aesthetic values as they apply to music (and to a much lesser extent to movies), cuz I think that's something everyone should do once they hit the age of 30 or so. Define yourself, but leave room for growth(s).

But I have never tried to define what characterizes my favorite books, and I've been thinking about this lately, inspired by a series of frantic emails with a friend who is belatedly discovering literature in a big way, after a lifetime of, I dunno, animal porn and the Wall Street Journal.

Whenever I recommend a book to him, I try to explain why I'm recommending it, and the recurring traits that I've deemed positive help me understand my own taste a little better:

  • Basically, I like writers who are British, or failing that, who seem like they could be if you didn't know they weren't.

  • I like writers who can be funny, even jokey, but still insightful and profound--the literary equivalent of Annie Hall.

  • I like a good, absorbing novel disguised as a mystery.

  • I love stories of redemption.

  • I don't like books with the words "corn meal" or "poultice," unless the writer is complaining about those words, which I would find surprising.

  • If a book is written in dialect, I will hurl it across the room and swear.

  • I don't like books about (or, generally by) people whose demographic hews too closely to my own, and yet...

  • ...I am a xenophobe. Don't yell at me, but I feel like I never need to read another book by an Irish or Southern writer ever again, if that's their only distinguishing characteristic. Same goes for you, Icelandic novelists!

  • Magical realism makes me squirmy.

  • There are always exceptions to all my rules, but I'll be damned if I can explain why.

    thoughts? (21 comments so far)

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