What are my hypothetical "dealbreakers"? I didn't think I had any, until this fellow I know emailed me with a link to the story that sits atop the New York Times Most Emailed list. The story is about "literary dealbreakers," which is to say, "books that are bonerkillers" or "It's Not Me, It's Your Books." Now: there is little in the way of reading material I hold in lower esteem than the New York Times' Most Emailed List, whose prominence on the New York Times homepage — in addition to the internal and circlejerkospheric prestige a writer earns when she or he writes a story that finds its way onto the list — serves not only as an important signifier of the wanton consumerism to which the once-great news gathering institution has succumbed, but a shameless perpetuator of said consumerism. Migraines! Maureen Dowd! Shamu! Oh yes, and also: "People in New York are detestable in every way; come, let us count them!" Today in class: your one-night stand is judging your book collection.
The story is filled with such divine specimens of shameless self-importance as "I just thought Rand was a hilariously bad writer, and past a certain point I couldn't hide my amusement," and "life-changing experiences are a tedious conversational topic at best" and "Manhattan dating is a highly competitive, ruthlessly selective sport," and "If there existed a more hackneyed, achingly obvious method of telegraphing one's education, literary standards and general intelligence, I couldn't imagine it" — that's in reference to carrying around Samuel Beckett's Proust.
I don't have a lot of books. I tend to leave them places, like my parents' attic, and what books I do have are usually an accident of some story I was writing. But the last time I had sex the guy happened to find Beckett's Three Novels in my room. This is perhaps the only highbrow book currently in my possession. Inspired by the Times story, I began reading The Unnamable at Starbucks. It pretty much immediately reminded me of the woman who sat on the toilet for two years. I started writing a story from her perspective, keeping myself amused by the absurdity, and the novelty — and imagining the slow process by which skin and toilet seat become one amid the whirring of the blenders — when suddenly I realized the man with the laptop next to me was watching porn. A white girl, blowing a black dick the width of my wrist. He watched for hours, motionless, chuckling softly to himself. Who watches porn without jerking off? Was he some sort of critic? Isn't it supposed to be "irredeemable"?