Reading as a Life Challenge
You'd think that a lit nerd would have some decent social skills, right? I mean, literature is just brimming with complex characters, tangled relationships, witty dialogue, sharp satires of society, and insight into the human condition. How could a bookworm fail to fit in?
Yet it happens all the time . . . and I'm just talking about myself!
This is what comes of one's having been trained to read anything. One will often say anything, too.
Two of the Best Novels I've Ever Read
(But just try discussing Alex's ultraviolence or Renton's public toilet in a mixed crowd.)
Last weekend, I was at a party with some people I hadn't seen in a while. As we brought each other up to date on the varied comedies of errors that are our individual lives, I finally got to tell them about having been trapped in an elevator at the start of July, with a man who breeds fighting roosters for a living and even has a weekly TV show that is a big hit among his fellow sabongeros all over the country.
One chicken story led to another--because, believe it or not, everyone has at least one--until someone raised his glass in a toast and said, "F*** chickens!"
It was funny rather than offensive; and everyone's laughter and clinking glasses were--now that I've thought about it--signs that the group felt done with the subject of chickens and wanted to move on.
But I'm a woefully literal lit nerd who was once a Lit major as well, and the word association just got the better of my booze addled mind. So I said:
"You know, in the Mario Vargas Llosa novel The Return of the Hero, there are characters who actually do that to a chicken."
The entire room fell silent. My closest friend got up and walked out.
Now, I had enough wit to realise that I had said the wrong thing and enough grace (Deo gratias!) to keep talking until I had kicked enough words over that literary tidbit for my remaining friends--the kindhearted souls--to pretend they had never heard it.
I think that had they all been fellow lit nerds or Lit majors, the conversation would have segued smoothly into novels with extreme premises or incidents . . . but even then, I'm not sure.
Image Sources: a) A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, b) Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh