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Michael McGuire

Literature and dating

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I ran across this article on literature and how it impacts one's attraction to the opposite sex (or same sex). I thought it would be interesting to see the forum reaction to this, particularly this paragraph:

Pity the would-be Romeo who earnestly confesses middlebrow tastes: sometimes, it’s the Howard Roark problem as much as the Pushkin one. “I did have to break up with one guy because he was very keen on Ayn Rand,” said Laura Miller, a book critic for Salon. “He was sweet and incredibly decent despite all the grandiosely heartless ‘philosophy’ he espoused, but it wasn’t even the ideology that did it. I just thought Rand was a hilariously bad writer, and past a certain point I couldn’t hide my amusement.” (Members of theatlasphere.com, a dating and fan site for devotees of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead,” might disagree.)

Do you consider Rand a bad writer? I have always thought of her ideas as the focal point. The writing itself is pretty direct, but bad? Hilariously bad?

I have to say I agree that if I looked on a woman's bookshelf (assuming she had one) and saw rows and rows of romance novels, Patterson novels, Chicken Soup books, and cheesy self-help pap, without seeing some real intellectual meat, so to speak, that would be a deal breaker. Maybe not a few years ago, but now for sure. Since my The Media You Consume thread is not particularly popular, I have no idea what people here are reading, and therefore what would be especially off-putting.

My wife and I are both big readers, although I wouldn't say high-brow by any means, and it is a mutual interest that helps sustain our relationship. We don't love all the same books by any means, but there is enough crossover appeal.

Would an unsatisfactory book collection turn you off to a potential girlfriend/boyfriend? What if you saw a heavily worn copy of Kant or Karl Marx on the shelf? Are you a reader who prefers a mate who isn't in to literature?

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Would an unsatisfactory book collection turn you off to a potential girlfriend/boyfriend? What if you saw a heavily worn copy of Kant or Karl Marx on the shelf? Are you a reader who prefers a mate who isn't in to literature?

I think a successful relationship requires a substantial number of common values. Values will be expressed in all areas of a person's life, including their choices of reading material, but the connections are not obvious. I've got a heavily worn copy of Marx on my bookshelf -- heavily worn because I bought it used back when I was in college. Were I to see such a work on the shelf of a potential girlfriend, my reaction would be to ask about it. Why does she have it? What does it mean to her? Perhaps she's a Marxist. Perhaps she's a committed Objectivist who believes in knowing the enemy. Perhaps she's just intellectually curious and reads everything. You can't necessarily tell from the presence of a single book what role it plays in its owner's life.

Now, a shelf that contained nothing but left-wing literature would be more significant, as would a shelf that contained books by Ayn Rand and nobody else. (Both bad, IMHO.) And no bookshelves at all would be unacceptable to me, because reading as such is a major value to me and I couldn't handle a relationship with someone else who didn't read at all.

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Would an unsatisfactory book collection turn you off to a potential girlfriend/boyfriend? What if you saw a heavily worn copy of Kant or Karl Marx on the shelf? Are you a reader who prefers a mate who isn't in to literature?
For me, reading would not be the issue, but movies and music. What I've noticed is that anyone I'm interested in, or not, for other more fundamental reasons of character or personality, will have at least some reflective tastes in art of my own. But, I don't really consume art with other people, so a lack of mutual interest is not a practical issue at all.

Added after khaight: I do read for the sake of learning, however, so another person with a lack of books for that purpose would probably be a sign that we will not get along famously, since there is so much less to talk about.

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It would be important that they are literate. They would have to be open to the aquisition of knowledge. I, too, read to aquire knowledge, as an end in itself. We can never learn too much.

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Well, most woman I meet in real life are either like this -- "Oh my God, a book!? Ewwwww...." or "What's a book, lol?!" or "My favorite book is The Bible!" or "The only book I've ever read is 'He Is Just Not Into You!'" ...

So if they actually have a bookshelf with books on it that they've read it's a turn on for me. Like "Wow! You know what words are too! No way!"

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I wouldn't seriously date a woman who wasn't a voracious reader, as I am. Only another voracious reader can understand the following:

1) I'd rather stay home and read.

2) I've nothing to read (while standing in front of 250+ books)

3) There's nothing in this bookstore (again, while standing near thousands of books)

4) I need something to read (again, while standing in front of 250+ books)

5) I need some new bookshelves

6) No, I dont' think I suscribe to enough magazines (or: I really do need both "Popular Science" and "Scientific American")

7) But I'm not finished yet (said at 2 am on a weekend with a new book in hand)

8) I know who did it, I just want to read "Patchwork Girl" again.

As for Rand, she was one of the better writers of the 20th Century. Her writing is clear and precise without being plain or unornamented. Consider, too, the sheer complexity of "Atlas Shrugged." Not only is it a complex novel well-integrated as regards plot and theme, but all the major characters' stories are as complex and each one is finished conclusively (Dagny's, Hank's John's Eddie's Francisco's and even Jim's and Dr. Stadler's; even minor characters like Cheryl, too, when they warrant it.)

And to top it all off, Atlas is also a first-rate mystery novel (Why are some people vanishing, where are they going, who invented the motor, who is John Galt?) I say first rate because the answers are ellusive when reading the novel. But if you go back once you're finished, you'll see clues scattered all over the novel. From the dollar sign cigarettes, to Akston's and Stadler's out-of-hand dismissal of their third student, to Francisco's dual attitudes, to Ragnar's exploits. It's all there.

I'd buy it if someone said he doesn't like Atlas, or any of her other works. But to call Rand a bad writer is intellectually dishonest.

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Would an unsatisfactory book collection turn you off to a potential girlfriend/boyfriend? What if you saw a heavily worn copy of Kant or Karl Marx on the shelf? Are you a reader who prefers a mate who isn't in to literature?

I have dated women who are not big readers, though they were definitely turned off by my literary background. I tried to get them to read some of the books I love (Rand included) but they would have nothing to do with it. I couldn't even get them to watch a good romantic movie, or did once or twice and got no positive reaction. For some people, romance does not include similar reading / movie materials, but just the "you're hot" range of the moment sexuality. And, a long time ago when I first came across The Fountainhead, I started to date a girl who just loved "Mork and Mindy" as if it was the most profound thing on TV. I never called her back.

So, yes, for me, having an interest in real romanticism or even the luke warm Romanticism of, say, science fiction or murder mysteries, is a definite plus.

As to your list of "forbidden works" on a bookshelf, I have many writings by Kant and Karl Marx, but for me, they were required reading when I got my philosophy degree. And I read them; for one thing, it is good to know one's enemy.

Those who think Miss Rand was a bad writer don't have a clue as to what makes good literature. And if I met a girl who was turned off by "all that philosophy" then we probably wouldn't be a match. I tend to live, eat, and breath Objectivism -- as should be obvious in my posts -- and being so focused is part of what makes me who I am. I did have one girl friend a while back who thought that I was like a spotlight, because I was so rational, but she didn't like that at all. She told me that being around me was like having everything she did as having some sort of cosmic significance. Well, maybe not cosmic, but, yes, I do focus on my lover; and I can't understand why she would be turned off by my thinking of her as my one and only, and would want to capture every glimmer of her being alive. I guess she didn't want to be that significant to anyone, perhaps not even to herself.

I have found better women who don't mind being focused on. Unfortunately, it didn't work out in the long-run -- but I'm still looking :)

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Would an unsatisfactory book collection turn you off to a potential girlfriend/boyfriend? What if you saw a heavily worn copy of Kant or Karl Marx on the shelf? Are you a reader who prefers a mate who isn't in to literature?

Well, it depends what you mean by unsatisfactory, but in general yes. I think what one chooses to like in art in general goes to sense of life and that is what we most evidently fall in love with.

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What if you saw a heavily worn copy of Kant or Karl Marx on the shelf? Are you a reader who prefers a mate who isn't in to literature?

I'd find out why she had it. She might have it in order to studt his so as to refute him. If she had that intent I would not only understand but admire her all the more.

Like others that commented before me, I do consider that she like reading to be an important issue because I want someone that values knowledge and as such learning. But that ddoesn't mean books are a must. There are other sources of printed/written word afterall. The requirement is liking reading, not liking reading books.

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I'd buy it if someone said he doesn't like Atlas, or any of her other works. But to call Rand a bad writer is intellectually dishonest.
I have to second that.

I was completely blown away by Ayn Rand's writing style and clarity. It's like leaving the fog and being able to breath clean air after years of fog. Reading Art of Non-fiction only increased my respect for her writing.

From what I've seen people who don't like Ayn Rand's writing do so, because they don't like (or just silently hate) her ideas or presentation of ideas.

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I was completely blown away by Ayn Rand's writing style and clarity. It's like leaving the fog and being able to breath clean air after years of fog. Reading Art of Non-fiction only increased my respect for her writing.

There are a great many writers with a clear style. However, most of these are, in fiction, plain styles with little in the way of beauty in their style. Rand manages to be clear and to use the language itself to create beauty. I'm probbaly not saying this very well. My style is mostly plain.

Another thing I admire about Rand is the fact that she knows exactly what she's doing. Many writers make the writing experience a half-mystical, half-subjective experience that cannot even be precisely identified, much less taught. Rand knows wherefrom her inspiration comes from and what steps she takes to turn it into a novel, a play, an essay, etc. That has to tee off a great many would-be mystics.

From what I've seen people who don't like Ayn Rand's writing do so, because they don't like (or just silently hate) her ideas or presentation of ideas.

It might pay to see what they like. If they prefer writers with an obscure style that can mean anything at all, or even nothing, then maybe they resent having to think in order to read.

BTW, if you liked "The Art Of Non-Fiction," you'll love "The Art Of Fiction."

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I've found that most who claim not to like Rand's writing, fiction or non, have never read her. They are glomming on to the opinions of others, with nothing upstairs of thier own.

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BTW, if you liked "The Art Of Non-Fiction," you'll love "The Art Of Fiction."

Yeah, I found it was a great read (The Art of Fiction that is(. Ine thing I liked about it is that it included a lot of things I had already figured out on my own yet it still taught me some useful things.

I've found that most who claim not to like Rand's writing, fiction or non, have never read her. They are glomming on to the opinions of others, with nothing upstairs of thier own.

Sadly that is what I've come to expect these days. As I have said a few times, even before I'd heard of Rand, most people today are sheep. They follow what others say rather than thinking for themselves.

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I would never date anyone who read books and espoused ideas that I fundamentally disagreed with. If he were reading the book to learn more about the subject, that would be fine.

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It isn't as big a deal to me as it is to some of you. But I do understand why. I do need a woman who reads, but she doesn't need to read as much as I do by any means. I typically finish 2-3 books a week, she can do 1 a month and I will be content. Anyway, my wife loves to read and thus far we havent had problems. She understands I like to read for long periods of time alone, and she is able to leave me to do that for the most part. As a generality, she likes to read fiction and I prefer non-fiction, so we tend to balance each other's tastes out.

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I typically finish 2-3 books a week

Very nice. I've been trying to get a sample of what people are reading on this forum, since the members here seem a little more sophisticated. So in the last few months you've probably read between 24-36 books, mostly non-fiction? That's a heavy load. What, if I may ask, are some of them?

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This post makes me smile because it reminds me of something my boyfriend has told me about very early in our dating life (before we even met in person). We met online, on a personals site that asked one fill out various fields including "The last great book I read was..." I took it very literally ("the LAST great book I read was...") and felt that many of the books I'd read in the previous few months hadn't blown me away, so I answered the question with, "Does Frank Longo's Cranium-Crushing Crosswords count as reading?" (For crossword lovers, it really is an excellent book of puzzles!) My boyfriend later told me that while he'd been interested by the rest of my profile, he was worried by my answer to that question -- "are crosswords all she does? does she ever READ?" I am in fact a voracious reader, but I can see how he wouldn't have known that at the time! :o

Anyway, like others who've posted on this thread, the mere presence on a man's bookshelf of a book I found objectionable would not be reason to stop dating him -- I'd want to know why he owned it. If he frequently blogs about the evils of religion, it's absolutely fine to have a shelf full of religious tomes to use as source material for the blog posts. If he disagrees with Plato's ideas, but owns a volume of Plato's works because a beloved family member inscribed it to him, that's fine too. If he has a bookcase full of bad ideas because he agrees with them, I would have to break it off -- but it wouldn't be because of his ownership of the books. That's merely a symptom of the underlying problem.

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I have heaps of books on my shelf. The problem is I need to sell heaps of them because I no longer care for them and that will bring my collection down - and I cannot afford to get new books for a while as I have more important things to buy and then I need to save for my study next year (though I just found out my savings will need to be a little less than I thought :o ).

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I'd have to agree with most of what I've read here.

The main disqualifiers for me would be A) a non-reader, B ) someone who believes a bunch of nasty stuff, regardless of the books they own, or C) someone who owns nothing but fluff.

(Edit--discovered that capital B followed by a closed paren means "sunglasses on an emoticon")

Edited by Steve D'Ippolito

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Very nice. I've been trying to get a sample of what people are reading on this forum, since the members here seem a little more sophisticated. So in the last few months you've probably read between 24-36 books, mostly non-fiction? That's a heavy load. What, if I may ask, are some of them?

Here are a few that come to mind:

Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman

Modern Times: History of the 20th Century by Paul Johnson

Intellectuals by Paul Johnson

In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (read this in high school, wanted to reread it)

Les Miserables by Hugo (reading this now actually, it's a long one)

Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The Sword of the Prophet: Islam by Serge Trifkovic

Prophet of Rage: Biography of Louis Farrakhan by Arthur Magida

Goldman Sachs by Lisa Endlich (sp?)

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

How the Soviet Government Works (written by some Harvard professor in the 80's, I can't remember his name)

Up From Slavery by Booker T Washington

Souls of Black Folk by WEB DuBois

Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn by Donald Spoto

The Gulag Archipelago by Solzhenitsyn

Security Analysis by Benjamin Graham

Passion of the Western Midn by Tarnas

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A couple of years ago you would find two shelves dedicated to Ayn Rand and Objectivism. Now I have just a little corner and my Rand and Objectivism are in boxes. I'm done for a while reading Objectivism and studying it obsessively. Now it's more about induction, if you like, gaining general knowledge and reading other people, gaining data. Objectivism is a long term top top value but there's so much more to read. So you'll find a lot of short fiction collections, and anthologies of poems and poets, Literary reference, books on logic are on the Objectivist shelf, and then I got a good selection of plays and fiction that I need easy access to for whenever the need arises.

But that's not what I'm reading; I go to them when I need them. Write now I'm reading a few works of fiction of various sizes for mere pleasure and fuel, and the other selection of genres of books are related to the research of my novel.

I also got a lot of Existentialism and Nietzsche on my shelf, because I'm finally at the stage of my intellectual life where I can find enjoyment in understanding modern philosophy. Also, there is a necessary connection to something related to my craft.

Jose.

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