The young, restless and well-read

Literature has always been about love Vivian Gornick tells us in The End of the Novel of Love. She goes on to prove that in the novel of love the intelligent female protagonist has little to gain and much to lose. Elsewhere she makes a clear case against couplehood as a solution to loneliness for women. She quietly talks of her own galling discovery that the ideal conditions for her writing was not going to be created by love, marriage or even sisterhood. "Only one's own working mind breaks the solitude of the self," she says making the face at least this reader pale. It is the scary truth that pale face is turned away from.

Literature has always been about love. Gornick warns against romantic love being the chosen mode of slvation. But what if you have it really bad? What if your idea of love has always been about literature? What if you fell in love in with strangers in bookshops hoping that Mr Murthy or Mr Shanbagh did not see you making a fool of yourself? What if the instance when you and a passing acquaintance quoted the same lines of Terry Pratchett was the instance when you imagined your father booking a wedding hall on Bannerghatta Road?

Though Atwood has said that love is not a profession, genteel or otherwise, for the bookslut finding the man to whom she can read to eventually becomes a profession. She becomes like the man with a turn for parlour magic who is always refused an ear to pull out a one-rupee coin from. Without someone to quote to...without someone who will listen to a whole story from the Winterson Powerbook (because otherwise how would he know why the last line about the tulips is so important)...without someone who insists on the merits of Charles Bukowski so that you can jeer...really what is the meaning of existance?

The postmodern bookslut however is just as excited by the man who knows that the panel in Flight 714 which makes her laugh the most is the one where Rastapopulos's snoot is mirrored by that of the proboscis monkey. Her heart flutters when a stranger at the buffet passes her a plate muttering under his breath, "Have another banana." And because he remembers that immortal line from the Disney version of Jungle Book she imagines giving birth to his children.

The man whose bookshelf reveals a Prakrit primer, the man who has written poetry casually all his life and whose amorous missives reveal a well-behaved yet spirited turn of phrase. Is this is the man the bookslut dreams of? Perhaps.

A peculiar paradox is the postmodern bookslut. Brought up to squash pretention and convictions with equal ease, she however skirts around her own passion for men who read. When she was nine she traded Hardy Boys with the boy who went on to top the Karnataka CET and work in Mountainview, Seattle. As an adult she has managed to eliminate from her life most human beings who may be inclined to say in an aghast tone "What a fat book." or the coy, almost Austenian, "How do you contrive to read so much?" She has around her people who read. In fact she knows more than one person who has actually finished reading that literary litmus test, James Joyce's Ulysses. Nevertheless what she craves is the romantic love that will arrive to her embellished in words, nested in a readymade narrative.

She would laugh while admitting it. That the man with the grave face who accepted her helping hand across a vast puddle on Infantry Road and then grinned because he recognized the blurring of narrative convention. That is the man she went home and dreamt of.

Does the call-centre girl dream of a client who will one day turn up at the office on Kanakapura Road to take her away from it all? Then the bookslut dreams of a day when she ceases to be just a reader and becomes a character herself.

Coming Soon: The adventures of the bookslut in the age of broadband


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