The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Monday, August 07, 2006

May I Recommend This Post?

By Andrew Tibbetts

Try to get somebody to read a novel you love. Ugh. Try to smile politely while somebody tries to get you to read a novel they love. Ugh. Why do we do this to each other? Recommend things.

I must have recommended to over one hundred people that they read Colm Tóibín’s "The Blackwater Lightship", and yet, as far as I know, not a single person has ever done so upon my recommendation. Does that stop me? No. Ugh. I soldier on.

It must be like belonging to one of those door-to-door religions. It's not so much that you'll convert anyone. It's about strengthening your own resolve. Paying homage to what you believe in. In fact, the more they slam, the tougher you get. The rare height of your exquisite taste is confirmed.

But not really. I don't want to be alone with these obsessions. I want company. I've bought several copies of Anne Carson's "Autobiography of Red" to give to people. I'd like to prop open their eyelids and clockwork orange them into reading it. They'll thank me when it's over. But on the other hand, the more people tell me I HAVE to read "The Kite Runner" the less I want to. I have a copy sitting several feet from me as I write this. A dusty copy.

A novel is such a huge investment. In comparison converting religions is small change- just show up at a new church for an hour and you're in! But novels take chunks of your life. And I HATE not to finish a novel. The few novels I have not finished, I repeatedly try to conquer. I don't want to saddle myself with another "Gravity's Rainbow", okay? I've read about those damn bananas a dozen times.

That doesn't stop me from asking my sixteen year old son at least once a month for the past several years, "How's 'Cloud Atlas' coming?" He ums; he ahs. Apparently he lost it. So I searched his room for it. Twice. And then he was all, like, I don't know, man, it's like, slow, at the beginning, and, like, all Victorian or something? Call the Children's Aid before I throttle him! Remember me? I'm the guy who introduced you to "Number Nine Dream" by the same author which is your favourite book. I'm the guy who introduced you to ska, which is your favourite music. I'm the guy who introduced you to John Woo, James Ellroy, The Hives, Butter Chicken, Green Apple Smoothies. Hello? I'm the guy who gave you half your DNA! Read the damn book. Humour me.

My father tried to get me to read Winston Churchill’s war journals.

Do you know what's depressing? Looking up a movie you love on Rotten Tomatoes and reading reviews by critics that didn't like it. Ugh. It makes me despair of humanity. My favourite critic these days is Anthony Lane, because the man can turn a phrase and not because I need to borrow his opinions. But it still bothers me that he doesn't care for my recent favs- 'Oldboy' and 'Me and You and Everyone We Know'- in fact he kind of implies that I'm creepy for liking them.

I’ll rant on. I don't set people on “My Life as a Dog” anymore. I'm tired of “you didn't tell me it was subtitled” and “well, it was slow” and “I thought you said it was funny- the kid's mom dies, buddy. I had to turn it off”, etc.... it just breaks my heart. When you recommend something you are offering a piece of yourself. When it's rejected, it's personal. Don't pretend otherwise. The part of you that feels that way is not present in the other person. Just like the part of my favourite teacher who loves "Seventh Heaven" is alien to me and if I think about it too much I lose all respect for him. Ugh.

Let’s face it. Other people are freaks. Freaks who like "Titanic" and not "Yes Nurse No Nurse," the Dutch musical. Freaks who prefer Burger King to Harvey’s. Freaks who vote conservative. You are never so much alone as when you are making a recommendation. So, best to keep them to yourself. Mum’s the word. Tick a lock. (But seriously, listen to that Sufjan Stevens song again, okay? It's not disturbing. It's beautiful. Why can't you hear that? Damn, I feel like a freak.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You do not need to read The Kite Runner.


Mon Aug 07, 08:37:00 am GMT-4  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I take almost all your advice and have enjoyed virtually all the work I've read.

Mon Aug 07, 10:12:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger craig said...

I double ditto what Anne said - I read the Kite Runner, on a, sigh, recommendation, and was ultimately quite dissapointed. If this is a book that becomes popular I am in deep shit.

When My Life as a Dog came out, I saw it in the theatre like 5 times, each time more brilliant. I'd recommend it and people who saw it went "huh?" Again, sigh.

I introduced my son to Tolkien (before the movies) and more recently to Gaiman. I claim I showed him Ska, he claims he found it on his own. John Woo is probably next, though I do have him interested in John Sayles.

I only have a couple of true bookie friends that I recommend to - or take recommendations from. I think you should ask a person their favorite movie or music before taking a book pick. If they say "Porky's 2" and "Anything by Shania" - run.

Great post Andrew.

Mon Aug 07, 11:04:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

So true about recommendations being revealing . When I was still a corporate shill, the CEO's very proper secretary recommended Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and I never again looked at her the same way.

Mon Aug 07, 11:44:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

Yes, you may recommend this post. And I'll appreciate it just as much as I do all your recommendations.

I'm of the school, though, that believes overenthusiasm is the gateway to disappointment. It doesn't stop me from doing it, mind. It just means I'm frequently trying to curb my enthusiasm... (By the way, may I recommend a pretty okay TV series of the same name?)

Mon Aug 07, 11:50:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Patricia said...

okay, I'm so happy I took this recommendation, I found another freak!!! and you understand!!

You're soo right, it IS personal...that's why I don't read at all!


and then the books I do buy upon recommdation, I lose or I never start and they become an albatros at my nighttable...!!! I hate it...

and yes Tamara, CTE is the best, I am soo in love with Larry

Thank you Andrew..xo

Tue Aug 08, 03:16:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

I'd also recommend "Cloud Atlas." Nice post, Andrew.

Tue Aug 08, 08:23:00 pm GMT-4  
Anonymous Chumplet said...

I've asked at least five people to watch an amusing and compelling movie called Local Hero, and after a couple of weeks they return the DVD and tell me that it put them to sleep.

It's a funny movie, but the humour is understated. It requires a minimum amount of effort to appreciate it, but still effort.

Wed Sep 27, 12:48:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

If it's any satisfaction for you, Chumplet, I love the movie "Local Hero" with all my heart!

Fri Nov 17, 01:57:00 pm GMT-5  
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