The Patch

June 2, 2007

Saturday 2nd June- My Guilty Pleasure

Filed under: Miscellany — Ames @ 10:18 am

When you think of an English student what do you expect? For some reason I’d always imagined an artistic type who sat around in dusty, wooden-floored coffee shops discussing Keats, Shelley and, more importantly, the lesser known, ‘misunderstood’ poets. Occasionally there’d even be poetry recitals in slow drawls, those around looking on in awe and admiration, berets firmly on heads and pipes (which may or may not contain illegal substances) dangling from the males’ mouths.It’s a good thing I didn’t want to become such a person by embarking on an English degree. I’m actually not quite sure where I got such a ‘vision’ from; the people I described are more like pseudo-intellectual hippies than any undergraduate I know. The only poetry I’ve ever heard someone recite out of lectures are dirty limericks (most likely copped from Bridget Jones’s Diary anyway), and the smoking illegal substances is something which is common for many students, it certainly doesn’t make them sound more thoughtful or intelligent afterwards.

What I did kind of hope, however, was that by embarking on my university experience I would suddenly became more literature worldly-wise. I would be able to discuss Tolstoy, Dickens and Marlowe, and would immediately be attracted the ‘classics’ section of the bookshop, excited by the prospect of delving into the canon. I would be one of the literary elite. Even as I prayed that with every page of Tess of the D’Urbervilles or Sons and Lovers I turned it would be the last, I thought that maybe by the end of it I would be struck by a sudden realisation that this was literary genius and be filled with genuine love for the good old classics.

Well, we can all dream.

Don’t get me wrong. I love reading. Apparently I’ve loved reading since I was in the womb, and for so long as I can remember my bedroom has been jam-packed with books. For a long period of time it used to be novels strewn all over the floor rather than clothes, but then I got wise to teenagerly ways and the heaps of clothes began. Still, many of them merely fell over the book towers I had previously created. In short, I love reading and my faux English student feelings, unlike a number of people’s seem to, don’t stem from the fact the novels scare the fear of God into me. Well, some do (namely Goosebumps), but that’s besides the point. What I mean is, given the choice I wouldn’t head towards Laurence, Hardy and their fellow members of the canon, but something a bit lighter. OK, a lot lighter.

Take Monday, for example, a particularly wet and dreary bank holiday. Television failing me and the Internet run dry, I scoured my bookshelves for some entertainment. And as I did so my eyes flickered past titles I’ve been meaning to read for years, books which sound good in theory, but in reality forcing myself to pick them up to read more than the blurb is more effort than it’s worth. No thank you Wilkie Collins, sod off Steinbeck, aurevoir Austen. Eventually I came to rest on and old favourite: the critically acclaimed Angels by Marian Keyes. Within a few hours I had demolished it like a bulimic presented with a chocolate bar. Yet like the bulimic might feel, the more I consumed the novel, the closer I got to the final page, the guiltier I felt. I felt the need to clear the story from my head through word vomit. John and Jane stared at me; their spines were unquestioning but I could still barely look at them from shame. But I knew what I had to do; they were the salad to my Galaxy, they were what I needed to get me back on track to being a Proper English Student. I forced myself to go over to the bookshelf and face up to my sins. My hand reached out for a title that would absolve me.

This guilt complex doesn’t just apply to me, however. Recently a friend told me of her plans to finish Dr. Zhivago and Pride and Prejudice so they weren’t ‘hanging over her’ any longer. We discuss our courses, Tennesse Williams (a mutual love) and Gone With the Wind to redeem ourselves of our Bad Reading Habits (not only Keyes and Kinsella but- far worse- Glamour and Marie Claire and sometimes even… Company, a magazine we seem to love to hate). Really we know on the insides that we’re no literary geniuses, but there is still that need to read Proper Novels instilled into us. It’s like Catholic guilt, but for English students, and it’s bloody annoying.

It can’t be that strong a guilt complex, however. After a little consideration my return trip to the bookshelf provided me with the well known classic Sushi for Beginners. By, you guessed it, Marian Keyes. Well, it was rainy, it’s the middle of exams and we all have to have some guilty pleasures in life. What else is a girl to do?


1 Comment »

  1. Oh God it’s so true! I bought Dante’s Inferno out of a combination of intrigue and the desire to be able to say I’ve read it and it’s GOOD I suppose but after 50 pages I have a lot of difficulty talking myself into reading anymore. What a phony I am. We should make a support group.

    Comment by Amie — June 11, 2007 @ 8:54 pm | Reply

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