“Now that man there,” my ex-boss said to the three people at his desk, “That man there looks like he would be into that sort of thing.”
“What sort of thing?”, this man here asked.
“Dan Brown. The Da Vinci Code. I bet you’ve read it.” My ex-boss is nothing if not up-to-date with the latest literary sensations.
“I have.” He knows me so well.
“And did you like it? I thought it was brilliant.”
I really wanted to tell the truth and say that I thought it was terrible. But saying that might mean explaining why, which might mean explaining why it is designed specially to appeal to people who don’t read much, which might mean my boss thinking I think he is an idiot. I don’t think he’s an idiot; no, in fact, I do, but it has nothing to do with the books he reads.
“Ahh.. it was all right.” Let it stop.
“Did you not think it was interesting? Let me guess, I bet you’re going to say you preferred Angels and Demons.”
“It was interesting, if you’re into that sort of thing. And no, I haven’t read Angels and Demons.”
“Well, you should. It’s brilliant. Really interesting.”
I hate conversations about literature to people who have no real interest in it. If they want to spend their time reading the Da Vinci Code and the like, then fine. I have no problem with it.
What annoys me is when they start saying stupid things like “Oh well if I happen to think that Philip Roth is dreadful and Dan Brown is wonderful, what gives you the right to say that my opinion is any less valid than yours? And if Dan Brown sells millions of books, doesn’t that say something?”
This is the literary equivalent of going into a top restaurant and demanding that they serve you a plate of chips, even when they aren’t on the menu. So, what my palate likes is an uncomplicated mush of salt, starch and fat, and since what I like reigns supreme, I want chips. Anyone who would think otherwise has to be some sort of snob. Likewise, I don’t know much about books, but I know what I like, and since what I like is Sheila O’Flanagan, anyone who would criticise such a thing has to be an intellectual snob.