Personally the warning bells would start clanging loudly in my brain. And I tried reading both books, believe me, but there was no breakthrough experience for me and I gave up after 30 pages. I would rather see, say, a hefty Yves Saint Laurent tome by his bedside; at least I'd know he's gay and we could spend the rest of the night watching Sunset Boulevard and taking turns acting out Norma Desmond's lines.
Yes, it smacks of literary pretentiousness, but just as we are what we eat, I suppose in many ways we are also what we read. And when we're into someone it's only natural to hope that we're compatible in most departments, including literature. So if your literary tastes don't match - depending on how severe the disparity is - it could be a definite dealbreaker, says Rachel Donadio in Sunday's New York Times.
We’ve all been there. Or some of us have. Anyone who cares about books has at some point confronted the Pushkin problem: when a missed — or misguided — literary reference makes it chillingly clear that a romance is going nowhere fast. At least since Dante’s Paolo and Francesca fell in love over tales of Lancelot, literary taste has been a good shorthand for gauging compatibility.
For instance: you're salivating over The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, and he's reading, oh I don't know, Wilbur Smith. Is your relationship doomed? By the same token, he could be reading Julian Barnes and she The Rules: Time-Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr Right... worse, maybe she doesn't even read. Does it really matter? Apparently it does, to some men - and women.
Still, to some reading men, literary taste does matter. “I’ve broken up with girls saying, ‘She doesn’t read, we had nothing to talk about,’” said Christian Lorentzen, an editor at Harper’s.
And the novelist James Collins says in the same article:
“I know there were occasions when I just wrote people off completely because of what they were reading long before it ever got near the point of falling in or out of love: Baudrillard (way too pretentious), John Irving (way too middlebrow), Virginia Woolf (way too Virginia Woolf).”
I used to date a man whose literary tastes helped shape my own. At a time when I was reading a lot of non-fiction - art history and biography as well as the occasional classic (I think I was slogging through D H Lawrence's Women in Love when we met) - he introduced me to contemporary fiction. I have been hooked ever since. And him? The aventure was pretty short-lived, though I've occasionally wondered what would have happened had we ended up together. Somehow I always saw us as reading, then discussing what we'd read, passion sublimated by literary criticism. So in the long run, literary compatibility made no difference, I guess.
This is where I should probably state that it doesn't matter, it's enough that he reads. But as the delightfully acerbic Jessa Crispin of Bookslut says,
"...if I went over to a man’s house and there were those books about life’s lessons learned from dogs, I would probably keep my clothes on.”
So yes, it does matter. Besides, it's kind of a good break-up line (to borrow from the title of the article): It's not you, it's your books...