I am an adult woman. I read books. I write about books too. I think I do an ok job of it. But apparently, men think I could do better. Or at least know more about books and writing and probably everything (including food). And so, sometimes they try and tell me all about everything they know since they are men and they are naturally wise. These are some of those times.
On seeing I am going to buy Heidi Julavits’s The Folded Clock: A Diary: “Have you read her? You know this is non-fiction, right? Her fiction’s much better. This is just, like, a recounting of her life. In detail. Extreme detail.”
Yes, I know that. That’s why I’m buying it. It says “diary” in the title, motherfucker.
On seeing that I am going to buy Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend: “You will love that book. All women love that book. It’s a book for women. But the twist is that the author is a man.”
Oh, is that the twist? Are you sure “the twist” isn’t that you will die alone with nothing but your opinions to keep you company?
On seeing that I am going to buy Catherine Lacey’s Nobody Is Ever Missing: “A lot of the people I see buying this book look like the woman on the cover of the book. Women usually buy books with women on the cover. Men don’t need that.”
What makes you think I care what “men need”?
On seeing that I am reading Mark Greif’s The Age of the Crisis of Man: “That almost looks too big for you to pick up, let alone read! Just kidding. But also, have you read Gone Girl yet?”
Not only can I pick this up but I could tear it in half with my eyes alone if I wanted. And, yes, I have read Gone Girl. What’s your point?
On seeing that I am reading the back of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections: “This is an important book. Probably the most important book of the last 20 years. But before you read this, you should really start with Philip Roth. I could make you a reading list if you’d like?”
I’ve actually already read this, thanks. I’m just passing time in this store while my friend uses the bathroom. But thanks for offering to guide me through the perilous world of reading fiction.
On the whole “read no white men” movement: “You know, it’s really the only way to read now. White men have dominated for too long. That’s why, even though I’m obviously a white man, I’m staying away from their books. You should try that. You’ll really feel empowered.”
Ok, but also, the most empowering thing I could do right now is walk the fuck away from you, so that’s what I’ll do.
On the state of literary criticism: “Not that you’d know much about this—most people don’t—but most reviews are good because they’re written by friends of the authors. The book world is really incestuous.”
Oh, really? And how is that different from literally every other cultural sphere?
On seeing that I am reading in not very bright light: “You know you’ll destroy your eyes that way.”
Oh, I know. Luckily I can also see with my fingers. And my tongue. Or I can use the light given off by the fire I’m about to shoot out of my mouth in your general direction.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen