Friday, July 29, 2005

Women in Love

I know this sounds a bit pretentious, but when I used to try and catch the eyes of young ladies on the tube, I was always more interested if one of them was reading a book.

A few sideways glances to see what it was. Cor! She's reading 'Wuthering Heights'. Or 'The Rainbow'. It was always a bit of disappointment if it turned out to be an airport novel.

Now I'm older, all of that has had to stop. I'm a married man. Kids of my own.

Old habits should die hard, but I've learnt to keep my eyes on my shoes. When I don't, I regret it.

The last three or four times I've looked in Pepysian expectation... always at a presentable 30 / 40-something women I might add it 'Jane Eyre'? Or 'Crime and Punishment'? 'Madame Bovary' perhaps?

No. It's Harry f***ing Potter. And all of a sudden, you feel a bit of a Nonce. Or at least I do....


rockmother said...

A work colleague treated me with great disdain the other day when I admitted that I had never read a Harry Potter novel. They said that the novels are part of popular culture and should be read by everyone. Thus illustrating exactly why I decided not to read them in the first place - or at least at the same time as everybody else. I didn't just want to participate in the Potter frenzy but slowly get around to it in my own time. I haven't found that time yet and dare say I ever will. Give me CS Lewis or Joan Aiken any day.

brockway said...

Too right. A woman's beauty is always greatly enhanced if she's carrying decent reading material. And otherwise plain women become suddenly 'interesting' if they're leafing through a Dostoyevsky or an Albert Camus. By the same token there's nothing like a Jilly Cooper to induce instant contempt - not only do you know that the woman sitting opposite's beauty is skin deep but her whole lifestyle is shallow and uninteresting. Close call.

And let's be honest there's more than a hint of vanity in what we read when we're on public display. Choose the Beats and you are openly declaring yourself to be a free spirit (despite that suit and tie you happen to be wearing). James Ellroy and Elmore Leonard earn you instant cool points with fellow male passengers but they cut no ice at all with the female population. Trouble is so much literature these days is gender specific. And you really wouldn't want to show yourself up by reading Bridget Jones or some other chick-lit Bible on the tube would you? No, if you're reading to impress the ladies best pick a genre which appeals to both sexes. Might I suggest Magical Realism?

brockway said...

What I've noticed when I've read them is that for all his adventures (usually eccentric rather than exotic) Harry Potter always returns to, and therefore reinforces, a norm which is white, middle-class, fundamentally decent and, crucially, English. And by English I mean anglo-saxon. Even his name is just so quintessentially Anglo and contains an inherant nostalgia for a simpler, purer, (and by default whiter) past. Not that JK Rowling-in-it is a racist of course - she isn't. She's just indulging in a bit of bourgeois escapist fantasy and aiding aspirant parents in persuading their children that boarding schools aren't such bad places after all.