51q1ZdQ0YGL__SL500_AA240_“I love this book,” I said to Tim while attempting read in a moving car, something that, to my intense frustration, I have never quite managed to do without wanting to vomit (thankfully I can read on a moving train, which makes my long commute more bearable). 

 “Listen to this,” I said, quoting page one (yes, page ONE!!).

Hours later, not long after the genesis of Francis Wells’ idea, the party would meet a premature death with a cloud of plaster dust covering the Gardner’s guests, as well as a dessert table graced with spun-sugar Giacomettis and the life-sized sculpture of Michelangelo’s David, whose penis had all evening been dripping syphilitically.

 

“And this!” I raved.

By ten p.m. there had been three slideshows – one of which, “Hop Art: A  Portfolio,” projected photos of Bunny’s own work onto the ballroom walls, interspersed with a  series of dinner courses as carefully presented and unsatisfying as Francis’ wife.

“I didn’t want to love it, but there it is, how could I not?”

“Don’t you want to love all books?” he asked, confused.

I pondered his question; certainly its a valid one.   When it comes to reading, as with the rest of life, I’m total cynic. I certainly don’t expect to love all books – an inordinate amount of what is published is trash, or boring, or overdone (or pleasant and inoffensive, but forgettable).   But there are those who allege that cynics are disappointed idealists.  Maybe.  If it were not true that a vast majority of published works are just plain mediocre, if we did live in an ideal world, would I really want to love every book I read? 

No, definitely not.  Just like I don’t want to love every person I meet.  Or every painting I see in a museum.  Or every song I hear.  I want to love only those works that speak to me.  I want to put them away in a special corner of my heart that’s reserved for them.   I want it to mean something.  It won’t mean that they’re better, only that they’re special – to me. 

Interesting then, that this conversation began about a book called How to Buy a Love of Reading in which the main character, Carley, loathes both books and words.  Her love cannot be bought (though her parents use their vast resources in a feeble and futile attempt) and she steadfastly refuses to love everything equally.  Which is not to say that her taste  – in books or in men – is impeccable.  She has given her heart to Hunter Cay, a beautiful disaster of a boy, who, despite his somewhat obsessive love of books, has never managed to live outside them.

This book is riddled with authors.  There are former college classmates Justin, a reclusive,  famous author (and billionaire) and poverty stricken Bree, a failed meta-fiction novelist, hired to create the work that  is expected to spark Carley’s love of reading.   Hunter hero worships Justin, carrying his journal everywhere and using drugs to soothe his own sense of mediocrity outside the pages.

There are also swarms of rich people.  Set in the fictional Fox Glen, Long Island, the story skewers both the wealthy elite and their faux intelligensia.  They admire Bree’s writing because they don’t understand it (when really, it’s totally crap) and they poke at her poverty like dying jellyfish on the beach – something mortally dangerous rendered temporarily incapacitated.  They embrace Justin as one of their own, when his contempt for them is barely contained.  He is more famous for having been shot by a crazed fan than for his actual writing. 

It’s hard to tell who this book is not taking shots at; there are so many witty barbs stabbing in every direction.  I have the sneaking suspicion even the reader is not exempt.  It’s all so gleefully sarcastic, I didn’t even care.

I take a bit of exception regarding a part in the end, which I don’t even want to discuss.  It was the only truly seriously bit of the whole thing, which made it feel unnecessarily heavy handed.

But that’s love right?  You take the bad with the good.

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