It’s inevitable. You meet someone, you start talking about the weather, or mutual friends, or food (in my case, it’s usually food.) Then there’s the moment—”so, what do you do?”
Pause. Briefly consider whether you should be honest and humble (semi-employed, low-level office worker), or go for it, and say “I’m a writer.”
As I’m either dreamy and determined or just a pathological liar (I’m a liar. I’m not determined.) I usually end up saying I’m a writer. People don’t generally know what this means, and, honestly, neither do I. Responses range along the lines of a disinterested oh cool, to an honest but hard to respond to what, like books? to a more realistic and more rude ha, good luck.
Regardless of the initial response, the next question is what I’m here to talk about. Because it’s usually, “What’s you favorite book?”
Don’t get me wrong. I love talking about books. But I also love complaining about things, which is what I’m about to do right here. Because I find this question problematic in a couple of ways.
1. As I said earlier, I’m a liar, so sometimes at this point in a conversation a book title just pops out of my mouth for no reason. It might be a book I don’t like. It might be a book I never even read. Obviously, this is less a problem of the writer’s profession and more about my psychological issues. But still. I get stressed, and then have to surreptitiously google the plot of Franny and Zooey on my phone. Life is hard.
2. I’d way rather people ask me about favorite writers. I can list them like I can eat chocolate, like going on forever. And I’ll have intelligent things to say. Mostly. Talking about writers is like a mixture of literature talk and gossip, so it’s my favorite.
3. I do love talking about books, but I mostly want to talk about the book I’m reading right now, which probably isn’t my favorite, and you’re probably not reading it right now as well. Which leads to either me boring you, or….probably me boring you. I think that’s the only option.
Now I have to decide which book is my favorite. It’s so hard. When I first became an English major in college, and I first began encountering this question, I decided I would just pick a book to always say was my favorite. I decided on Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, because I do love it. It’s one of my favorites.
But when you say a Hemingway book is your favorite you sound like a pretentious asshole. Like you’re trying to be something. So I swung back and decided I would say the Harry Potter books. Because I didn’t want to be a pretentious asshole. And the Harry Potter books are also some of my favorite.
But then people thought I was immature and a little bit stupid. See? It was getting difficult.
Catcher in the Rye: Condescending. (Phony.)
Me Talk Pretty One Day: Duh.
A Girl Named Zippy: Huh?
Romeo and Juliet: Girly. Obvious.
The Things They Carried: Weird.
And you might say something along the lines of, “Why are you worrying about what people think about your favorite book? Why don’t you just say your actual favorite book? Why are you such a phony?”
These are my favorite books. And I’ll talk about them but I kind of want to talk about Carrie more, because I’m reading it right now and it’s freaking me out. But there you go. No answers, only the perpetual question.
What’s your favorite?