Dickens is My Funny Friend


“Everyone has to be a snob about something,” I said in conversation to one of my friends. We were discussing the merits of different brands of coffee, along with various people we knew who went to great lengths and dollars to attain their high standards of the drink. She, not a serious coffee drinker, didn’t get it.

The conversation led on to people being snobs about clothing and shoes, food, music, cars, art, etc. The list continues, but the important thing is: snobs are able to discern the nuances of their area while the rest of us are content with the cheaper versions.For the moment, the snob feels slightly important at their deeper knowledge and expertise, without taking into account that the other parties probably couldn’t care less about it.

I wondered if I was a snob about anything.

You might snicker, because we know that self-reflection hardly ever yields true criticism. But I guessed the existence of this blog highlighted that I am a book snob.

Case in point: While getting to know a great friend of mine, we soon realized that we were both avid readers. Our delight grew as we continued to name the typical favorites: Jane Austen, the Brontes, even the Russian writers Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. At some point, she told me how she was presently engrossed with the new “Divergent” series. I stopped dead. The dream was over. Chuckling about it in my mind, I concluded that she had suddenly loss all credibility. “Would you like to read it when I’m done?” She asked me. I think I could’ve answered with absolute certainty that I could spend my entire life without ever cracking the cover (or Kindle) on “Divergent” or anything like it.

Alright, I know that I am a book snob. I prefer heavier, artsier, more meaningful fare when I read. Many people read to be entertained, but I read to learn, to marvel, to be shocked, to understand, to grieve, to rejoice, in addition to being entertained. So I have a bit higher standards (not knocking you “Divergent” or “Hunger Games” or whatever fans out there.) If I want quick plot, quick character, quick action, I can go to see a movie. If I am going to make a solid investment of time and energy on a creative work, it has to mean something.

So, instead of discussing how one becomes a coffee snob, or a social snob, or a clothes’ snob, let’s ask, “How does one become a book snob?”

Maybe I can explain my path. It was simply to save my life.

When the world fails us at a young age, disaster can be diverted by several specific means. Many will agree that the most optimal situation is an adult (at least one) who cares enough to bring you through it. When that doesn’t occur, the next best thing is to find a friend or two who understands you, shows you who you are, reveals to you new things. Sometimes that doesn’t happen either, or your friends are just as lost as you are, so they take you down a dark way towards destruction.

I was saved by my love of reading. I found friends there, good people, you know, the people who wrote the books and the people they wrote about. Or if they wrote about bad, lost people, I found I was not alone and I shared in the writers’ indignation, their sensitivity, even their joys. I think of Shakespeare’s language that touched my young heart, not to mention his human insights. I think of Hardy’s fatalistic plots, his jaw-dropping tragedies. Oh, I can’t list them all, and all of the new ones I’ve discovered over the years! They became friends to me. They made me realized that I was not alone. They made my life various, interesting, special.

Oh, I’ve got “real” friends now, but I cannot forget what sustained me through a dark period of my life. And I still consider them friends, because of the influence they can still wrought upon me.

As I was carrying around a book of critical essays on “Faulkner,” one of my workmates who is also an avid reader commented that he was depressing. After amusedly reflecting on her statement, I decided that for all of my snobbery I do read many dim novels, which doesn’t always reflect well on my mood. I’m not one of those people who has to be happy all of the time, but I do spend the great majority of my hours brooding on the meaning of life and the reason for so much suffering in the world.

Ha, so just like one takes a break from his moody friend to cheer up with his goofy friend, I decided that it was time that I picked up Charles Dickens’ “The Old Curiosity Shop.” And, boy, what a great time I’m having. I’ve loved Dickens since childhood for his beautiful prose, but the funny thing is, I would really concentrate on his discription in my intense manner, when I would be suddenly shocked by humor, a sudden line that catches me off guard, and my spirits  lift right off the ground. The power of a good friend.

Oh, I already know how it ends, you naysayers, but you get the point. Now, what about you? Are you a book snob? If so, how did that come about?


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