When I was first invited to do this blog I admit being slightly apprehensive about my (lack of) literary pedigree. I was a bit like a fast food junkie when it came to books, my lack of discrimination seeing me everywhere from the literary equivalent of high end cuisine to slumming it in the book version of McDonalds when it came to getting my next fix. I never felt any qualms about this state of affairs, always feeling that books were supposed to enjoyable and delicious, even scandalous and never laborious.
A BBC article recently interrogated critic and academic John Sutherland on the ‘guilty pleasures’ phenomenon. In the article Sutherland admits there is a kind of ‘naughty’ pleasure in enjoying what feels like illicit reading material. He admitted to having a stash of bad airport novels on his bedside table and a secret love of mega-selling UK novelist Jilly Cooper. “It’s strange how embarrassed you get about what you’re reading or enjoying. There’s always this feeling that there’s this school mistress over your shoulder grading you,” he said.
The most amusing is the article’s suggestion that reading ’smart’ books increases a person’s level of attractiveness. Breaking up over a love of Pushkin may seem extreme, but is this reaction perhaps another reason why our less admirable book addictions are best kept in the closet?
In fact some of the greatest novels were condemned by critics as ’gutter’ literature. Novels like Nabakov’s Lolita and D.H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s lover popular underground appeal lay precisely in the fact that they were initally banned and disapproved of.
So I am here to make my confessions. I make this declaration to the professors and book boffins, to the writing students and reviewers. To anyone who expects me to be anything except a book lover not expert. The difference being that a lover is full of moods and qualms, whims and compulsions, where nothing is mandatory and everything is shared. On the other hand an expert makes pronouncements, declarations on language and technique boasting a profound encyclopedic range and knowledge of which I must confess some inadequacy.
I confess to never reading Homer’s Iliad or the Odyssey. I confess to trying to crack James Joyce’s Ulysses several times but failing (atlhough this is not so uncommon). I confess to coming of age to Sweet Valley High, the Babysitter’s Club, Virginia Andrews and Anne Rice. “Chic-lit’ has also graced my bookshelves, my favourite being Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series.
I confess to devouring anything in a doctor’s waiting room or bargain basement table. I confess to having read Barbara Taylor Bradford and Jackie Collins and even those horribly racist “Behind/beneath/exposing/forbidding the veil” melodramas (only to denounce them of course!)
And yes I even confess to reading Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and here is the depressing bit… actually kind of enjoying it.
Ah I feel so much better now.
If that hasn’t seen you fleeing in horror, feel free to join me on what should be lively and entertaining musings on what we hate and love and why.
So now it is your turn. What are your guilty pleasures?