Thursday, February 21, 2008

In which I reveal myself as a self-delusional snob with a disturbingly large collection of fantasy novels...

I remember hearing a bit on the brilliant Ricky Gervais podcasts awhile ago when they were taking the piss out of a national poll that deemed ‘serendipidy’ to be the UK’s favourite word. Now, there is nothing wrong with the word serendipidy. It has a certain quiet musical quality. It has a pleasant meaning. If you can erase the abortion that was the same-titled John Cusack/Kate Beckinsale movie from your collective consciousnesses it is, in fact, a rather pretty word. (Sidebar: I once overheard the kind of girl who I previously imagined to exist only in my hate-filled mind describe Serendipidy as her favourite romantic comedy of all time. In public. I would have mocked her but I figured that with brains like that she’ll probably bang a hammer through her cerebral cortex any day now). Anyway the point Gervais was making is that it was a bit doubtful the people of Britain had come up with this one on their own and spontaneously voted overwhelmingly in its favour. He had his doubts, I guess.

Now you’ll swiftly note that the above story is mostly irrelevant but the idea of serendipidy being voted a country’s favourite word stirs in me much the same reaction as the news that Australian’s have voted Pride and Prejudice as their favourite novel of all time. I sigh, I roll my eyes a little. I die a little inside.

Easy there, tiger, I like P&P. I think it’s a very good book – amusing, romantic and very well written. More importantly it spawned the BBC adaptation that put Colin Firth in form-fitting jodpurs, thus providing years worth of high-class wank material to millions of women and men around the globe. And that’s sort of my point. Have all those people who voted for P&P actually read and loved the book all that much? Or have they seen the adaptation, possibly even pouty-pout-pout-faces stupid movie version, and voted for it with the weary recognition that it Is A Good Book?

I remain unconvinced. The fact that Lord of the Rings, The Power of One, Magician and, god help us, The Fucking Da Vinci Code, all come in further down the list, calms me somewhat. Not because I think these are the best books every written (for the record: I love Magician and it’s one of the best fantasy books every written and a sterling achievement but top 10? I think not. And do I really need to go to my dark place of rage to speak of The Da Vinci Code?) but because there’s something honest about admitting you love these books. And it makes me weirdly happy to know people do actually read and feel strongly enough about what they read to vote in a stupid poll conducted by a second-rate bookstore.

Hearing the populace at large bleat on about Austen is the same feeling I get when other people say they think the best authors of all time are Proust or Joyce and I think, fine, that’s a very reasonable possibility but are you saying that because you actually enjoy reading them or because you have In Search of Lost Time on your bedside table and you tried to read it once or twice back at uni?

Am I being a terrible, terrible snob and a hypocrite? Of course. Am I suggesting I have simultaneously better reading taste and get more humility than the greater Australian public? Erm, well, no, I couldn’t possibly say such a thing. And yet… you know that I kind of do. Am I also considered going home to reread Magician with the help of a delicious glass of wine? Don’t mind if I do…


Anonymous said...

"there is nothing wrong with the word serendipidy. It has a certain quiet musical quality."

You could even describe it as mellifluous, if you wanted to (now there's a fucking good word!).

Which list are you talking about? The ABC's My Favourite Book had P&P at 2, behind Tolkein. You know what I'd love to see? Australians pulling out some Australian literature as their favourite book - or is Australian literature some kind of oxymoron?

Come on peeps - it ain't that bad!

Kate - we shall discuss later your reference to the lovely Keira as "Pouty-pout-pout face". It's just not on ;-)

shiny said...

P&P should die a death. I recently found myself discussing Austen with a friend and we both managed to come to the admission that we hate her. Or dislike strongly.

I'm constantly thinking maybe I should give her another go because, well, everyone else seems to like her. Then I realise that every else is stupid so why bother.

And as someone who sat through a four hour stage adaptation of a Tim Winton book last night, please can we leave Australian literature out of it?

my name is kate said...

I like Austen and I like P&P but it just strikes me as SUCH a boring and predictable result. Like the way the flipping Beatles seem to top every music poll.Aussies reading literature would be a great thing. More Aussies writing really great books would be even better… wait, does J.M Coetze count? I’m going to say yes…