I thieved this article from the Independent. You can read it in full here. It is entitled “Is this how to start a new chapter in your love life?”
So, essentially, it’s like speed dating only for book nerds. This is how Miranda Kiek starts her foray into Literary Speed Dating, which is big in the US and only just starting in London (so presumably here in Perth we’ll have to wait about five years)
You are sitting on a train, and across the aisle someone is reading one of your favourite books.
This person (clearly of taste) happens to be a tall, handsome man. As you stare he looks up, catches your eye and smiles – he asks for your number… Browsing in a bookshop you reach out to pick up a book; so does the person standing next to you. The person happens to be a tall, handsome man. He catches your eye and smiles – he asks if you would like to go for coffee… So run the fantasies of many a book-lover.
She quite amusingly goes on to say that at the literary speed dating, everyone brings a book and discusses it for a few minutes, then decides if they want to meet up and presumably have some kind of bibliophilic/sexual relationship. The hard part, she says, it deciding what book to bring, rather than what to wear. Which actually sounds quite nice but far more terrifying to book nerds like me.
Should I bring something witty? A great tome? And Indie classic? Something obscure?
At least when you are dressing for a date there is far less variation in the persona you might present. Hair up or down? Show some cleavage or not? Jeans or a skirt? There are a finite number of ways you can present your same self to a potential suitor.
But as I have everything from Anna Jacobs’ deliciously trashy romances to Ulysses on my bookshelf, which face to put forward when going on a literary date?
Middlemarch will make you seem boring. For the love of God don’t take anything by Virginia Woolfe or Jeanette WInterson. THe classics might make you seem stuck up, whilst anything chicklit or popular biography makes you seem stupid. While I could forgive (possibly) bad shoes on an ill-conceived shirt or haircut, meeting someone and deciding if you wanted to see them again and probably discarding them completely based on ONE BOOK they had clutched from their bookshelf seems impossibly harsh. But there you have it.
The author says she dreams of meeting a man on the train who looks up at her over the dog-leafed pages of Middlemarch and falls in love with her. I say give me a man who can put up shelves and reads Bryson’s The History of the World and can tell me shit I don’t know, rather than competing with me as to who is the most intellectually twattish of the two of us. Let him read sporting biographies and books about Stalinist Russia – shit I will never read. Let him spout forth facts I can possibly win trivial pursuit with whilst I sit in the corner and read Pride and Prejudice for the five millionth time or print out the last 20 years’ woth of Boooker shortlisted authors and try and read them all (and also slyly read romance novels on my kindle when no one’s looking).
I love books, I love literature, but Iove swapping books and literature with my similarly nerdish twattish book friends (Kate). I don’t want to swill red wine and talk about the employment of various literary devices in James Joyce’s (I forget the name. The hard one I haven’t read but which is on my bookshelf, mocking me).
Whilst Literary Speed Dating sounds good in practice, I’d hazard a guess you’re only going to get foppish twats. That might seem cruel, but I’ve some shelves that need putting up and other bits and bobs that need doing. Also, if you need further evidence, check out Anne Fadiman’s short story “Marrying Bookshelves” in her Ex Libres collection of short (factual) stories on books. (see? I’m a total wanker)
Whilst her story about two writers integrating their book collections may have ended well, I chucked a MASSIVE hissy fit when my ex tried to place his Uni textbooks and Choose Your Own Adventure stories (I kid you not) next to my TS Eliot.
My bookshelves are arranged in my own version of the Dewey Decimal System. I KID YOU NOT. So, as you can see, there can only be one complete wanker in this relationship. And that will be me. Perhaps regular speed dating might better serve.