I have a secret addiction to trashy novels – well, it’s no secret to my husband and the people in my household, but I try to look respectable when I step out my front door, so I don’t usually offer this information up. Are you a closet pulp reader? Do you pretend you don’t like it when in polite company? Well, I’m going to try and help us both feel better about ourselves, so read on.
I wasn’t always a trash novel addict; in fact, in my teens and twenties, I eagerly devoured all kinds of DML (Deep, Meaningful Literature). Sometime in my thirties, however, I developed a preference for trash… and any more, I have little interest in anything else. I’m thinking about this issue because my mother has been beating me over the head with a book she thinks I’d like. “You have to read this!!” she insists regularly, and, since she sent me the book and it sits on my bedside table (IT’S BEEN THERE FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR), I really should. But I can’t.
There is nothing apparently wrong with this book. It’s a NY Times best-seller, written by a popular and well-known author, critically acclaimed and very much DML. People love it. I should love it. I cannot bring myself to crack the cover. I look at the poignant, emotionally incisive blurb on the jacket; I consider the thoughtful, profound demeanor of the author from his photo; and, well, I drop that thing back on my night stand like it’s on fire and here’s why: I need no more than glance at it to know it is an existential crisis waiting to happen, something I can see from reading the title. Why would I volunteer to read it? I have no desire to become morose and introspective. I don’t really want to know why human beings suffer or what the meaning of life is.
Trash does not threaten such harm. It’s like sugary drugstore candy, or a cheap pair of earings that are gaudy but pretty, or a bacon cheeseburger and a beer at 11 at night – foolish, perhaps, but so way fun.
My husband used to tease me about the paperbacks I haul into the house by the dozen, and while the teasing was flirtatious banter for us, I silently agreed that, perhaps, I should be ashamed of myself, that I should cut back on the trash. Then I had a flash of insight that put to rest, forever, his need to rib me and my vague feelings of shame. Here it is, my gift to you: “Wait a minute. Aren’t you the guy who can quote every line from any Chevy Chase movie ever made?” He never answered me, but we both know he’s guilty. We now have mutual respect for each other’s desire for a little nonsense every now and then.
Which is nice, as they say on Caddyshack.