Yesterday at Waterstones I served a young man who was buying books as gifts but was unsure where to start. He needed something for two different ladies. The first, he explained was an 18 year old he’d only met that day. She liked modern classics and romance, was going to study literature at university and wanted to be an English professor.
Veering off the beaten track, I tried a few of the future classics fisrt – The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Attwood and Wise Children by Angela Carter having been favourites of mine around the same age. But we somehow ended up back in the classics section from whence I plucked A Room with a View in desperation.
“What’s it about?” the young man asked – “Can you summarise it in a sentence?” I thought for a moment.
“A young girl on a trip to Florence with her chaperone falls in love with a young man who corrupts her into participating in somewhat unladylike activities. Like snogging in a corn field.”
“Oh, of course – those Italian men, always wooing our women with their lines. Do you fancy a snog in a corn field?” He paused while I blushed and flustered. “See – doesn’t work if you’re English!”
“He wasn’t Italian, he was English… and I don’t think it worked quite like that…” I trailed off – suggesting it was more a spur-of-the-moment swept-off-her-feet kinda kiss somehow seemed a bad idea… “Come to think of it, ” I babbled on, “It may have been barley!”
He took the book.
“Right. Next up my Mum. She’s like… Nigella Lawson – but without the ill-concealed bitch-factor.”
Somewhere in the book-related jabber that followed that descriptive he asked whether I’d read the Twilight books, and whether they were any good. I paused and delivered my usual Twilight line. No, they’re not. They’re pretty badly written and can essentially be summed up as Point Romance with vampires. But they are completely addictive, I couldn’t put them down and I’ve no idea why.
“I do,” he replied. “Its the lust factor. Infatuation, obsession – that desperately romantic yearning, the will-they-won’t-they. Stories don’t start with “They did their laundry together – and man, did they do that laundry!” – they end before that bit because it’s everything before that’s exciting to the outside world.”
If you want pop philosophy, work in a book shop!