1. 22-year-old colleague in Dubai, highly conscious of her above-average IQ, and Lebanese from AUB (I add this because it speaks volumes to those who know). Ostentatiously scruffy in head-to-toe Diesel.
2. Me, much less decrepit and sociopathic than now, but well on my way up the hill. In high heels, make-up and bling.
Me: Sitting at table in food court reading while eating lunch. Absorbed in book.
She: Interrupting. “You’re always reading crime fiction.”
Me: “Yeah, I like crime fiction”. Polite smile, one eye on book, hoping to convey through body language that I don’t want company.
She: “It’s great that you read, though. I can recommend some good books”.
Me: “Ian Rankin is a good book”. Ponder the implications of the “though”.
She: “Most people who read waste their time because they’re reading the wrong things. You should read some classics to really get an idea of what books are about.”
Then, weakly, “I’ve read them”.
She: “Reading this shit, you might as well be watching TV”.
Struggle with impulse to brain her with said shit. Think that watching some TV would improve her greatly.
She: “If you find the classics too heavy, start with the modern classics. Midnight’s Children. It’s about India, it’s by Salman Rushdie.” She pronounces it like the fish.
Me: “I’ve read it”.
Heft the Rankin a little to see if it’s heavy enough to kill. Count the number of classics I can think of that are far lighter than any of Mr. Rushdie’s extravaganzas. Lose count in a flurry of dismay when she sits down. She produces pen and paper from her bag, and starts writing names.
She: “Zadie Smith is good too”.
Me: “I’ve read it”.
She: “Vikram Seth, Martin Amis, Thomas Pynchon…”
Me: “I’ve read them”
Admit to myself that I’m done with them, though. Though. I never finished the third Martin Amis. Might read Vikram Seth again, though. Though. Try to remember how Suitable Boy ended but can’t, which is weird because I did finish that one. Renew my silent vow to never, ever go near the Pynchon again, even to save my life.
She: “…Terry Pratchet…”
Me: “Terry Pratchet?”
She: “Yeah it’s Sci-Fi. That’s Science Fiction.”
Wonder why one would pick Terry Pratchet over Arthur C Clarke if introducing someone to sci-fi. Think deep thoughts about the teaching philosophy at AUB.
She:”… John Steinbeck, Rainer Maria Rilke…”
Me: “I’ve read them.”
Realize with a shock that a proud little quotation I just used in a presentation attributed to "Anon" is my own creation, combining Khalil Gibran and Rainer Maria Rilke. Try to work out which bit belongs to whom, and how widely the presentation is likely to be distributed.
She: “I suppose you’ve read Harry Potter?”
Feel like I’ve won a prize in Wheel of Fortune.
She: “Then you should read Lord of the Rings – the movie was based on a book you know”. Hands me the paper and stands up. “You’re welcome”.
Me: Too relieved at her absence to register the last part of her speech until she’s out of reach. Stare dumbly at the list for a while. Reach for the pen she’s left behind and correct the spelling of Tolkien.
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