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“Books”: it’s the most dangerous section of a young lover’s Facebook profile. A bad favorite novel—-whether revealed by accident, or deliberately placed on one’s bedside table as an act of intellectual seduction—-has the power to put a damper on a once-exciting courtship. I’ve never stopped seeing someone based on their favorite book, but looking back, there were signs. Here, I’ll note that heated literary disagreements can actually help to build a healthy and intellectually stimulating relationship. Or, it can devolve into resentment, condescension, and spirited book-burning. Here are my deal-breaker books:
The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Maciej Cegłowskihit the nail on the head when he described Milan Kundera as “the Dave Matthews of Slavic letters.” He goes on: “Kundera has a sterile, cleanroom writing style meant to suggest that he is a surgeon expertly dissecting the human condition before your eyes, but if you look a little more closely, you see he’s just performing an autopsy on a mannequin. Or more accurately, a RealDoll.” Personally, I’m wary of any book which glamorizes cheating as some sort of tortured philosophical exercise. Just keep your pants on, dude, it’s not that hard.
The Catcher in the Rye (see also: Lord of the Flies, To Kill A Mockingbird). I’m all for celebrating the classics, but if your favorite book still contains highlights from your 7th grade humanities class, maybe it’s time to mix it up a bit.
Atlas Shrugged. I dated a guy in college who kept his collection of Ayn Rand novels hidden underneath his bed, next to his Magic: The Gathering cards. When you discover that your significant other has a secret Rand fetish—-and if you’re dating high-school or college-aged males, this is a significant possibility—-you may be occupied with concern that their idea of good literature is a thousand-page glorification of capitalism. But don’t forget about the sex!
Rand’s Ideal Woman, Dagny Taggart,is a self-made railroad baron and defender of industry. Taggart defers to no one, except for basically every dude she has sex with. In sex, Taggart submits fully to Man, an act which symbolizes surrender to her sex partner’s superior industrial capabilities, or whatever. Many critics have described Rand’s sex scenes as “rape,” but in Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand, Wendy McElroy explains that it’s not rape, because Rand makes Taggart secretly want men to take her by force. “With our godlike perspective we can eavesdrop on Dagny’s psychology as she silently pleads with him . . . Our knowledge of Dagny’s unspoken desire for sex with Reardon converts what seems like an act of rape into one of passionate and mutual consent.”
So, not only does the Ideal Woman submit sexually to the Ideal Man, the Ideal Man has the crazy ability to discern a woman’s secret rape fantasy without asking! Did I mention it’s 1,000 pages long?
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