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Call me paranoid, but I swear I’m getting stupider by the day. In the past month, I’ve started two ‘serious’ novels (Winifred Holtby’s The Crowded Streets and Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook), only to enjoy them but find my attention wandering after the second chapter. In contrast, I can pick up something more lightweight – one of the historical mysteries that appears to be my literary crack right now, or a collection of fun, zany essays like Laurie Naturo’s The Idiot Girls’ Action-Adventure Club) and breeze through it. I know my problem – it’s that I don’t actually have a problem. Naturo is a fabulous essayist, and writers like Deanna Raybourn and Tasha Alexander hit the same literary kinks – plucky Victorian women solving mysteries and fighting the patriarchy, with a dash of UST – that my favourite writer Wilkie Collins does. But I can’t shake off the nagging voice of my inner elitist (hint: she sounds a lot like my mother).

Why do we do this? Is the guilt factor of reading something a little trashy when we have bookshelves overflowing with Auster and Austen and nearly every book Virago have ever put out somehow greater than if we exist on chick-lit with only the occasional foray into the classics? For someone with a self-confessed addiction to the printed word, I will read anything in front of me provided it isn’t porn or the sports section. Even then, if I’m on the tube and my iPod battery is dead, I’m prepared to compromise (hey, I went to a football game once. And I stopped calling half-time ‘the interval’ when someone corrected me).

So do I indulge my guilty pleasures?  I cant just go cold turkey, not when there are at least ten more Amelia Peabody novels that I havent read. But then, there are hundreds of books in the world that Im dying to read, and I only have a limited amount of time and funds. Ive been saying Ill read Wide Sargasso Sea since I was nine, and that was fifteen years ago. What have I read in those fifteen years? Collins, the Brontes, Gaskell, Woolf, Sweet Valley High, the Gossip Girl books because they were in the second-hand bookshop and very cheap and I was bored. If I hadnt picked up those last two, I could have read every word Jean Rhys has ever written. I could have done – but that doesn’t mean I would have.  Think of all the junk I might have read instead. Maybe indulging my literary sweet tooth once in a while isn’t so bad.

So I’m opening this one up to the floor: light reading – guilty pleasure, or just a pleasure? Answers on a postcard (or in my comments) please.

 

But I’m not. I’m reading The Devil Wears Prada.

So, in accordance with the ‘5th line on page 123’ meme, here is the fifth line on page 123 of Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada, Harper Collins UK edition, 2003:

“Bye!” I trilled, a giant fake smile plastered on my face.

Oh yeah. I am, like, hardcore literary.