The New York Times examines
the role that one's reading taste plays in dating. Mostly the article regales us with stories of of those who dumped prospective partners whose reading taste
wasn't highbrow enough.
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. These days, thanks to social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, listing your favorite books and authors is a crucial, if risky, part of self-branding. When it comes to online dating, even casual references can turn into deal breakers. Sussing out a date's taste in books is "actually a pretty good way -- as a sort of first pass -- of getting a sense of someone," said Anna Fels, a Manhattan psychiatrist and the author of Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women's Changing Lives. "It's a bit of a Rorschach test." To Fels (who happens to be married to the literary publisher and writer James Atlas), reading habits can be a rough indicator of other qualities. "It tells something about ... their level of intellectual curiosity, what their style is," Fels said. "It speaks to class, educational level."
Naming a favorite book or author can be fraught. Go too low, and you risk looking dumb. Go too high, and you risk looking like a bore -- or a phony. "Manhattan dating is a highly competitive, ruthlessly selective sport," Augusten Burroughs, the author of Running With Scissors and other vivid memoirs, said. "Generally, if a guy had read a book in the last year, or ever, that was good enough." The author recalled a date with one Michael, a "robust blond from Germany." As he walked to meet him outside Dean & DeLuca, "I saw, to my horror, an artfully worn, older-than-me copy of Proust by Samuel Beckett." That, Burroughs claims, was a deal breaker. "If there existed a more hackneyed, achingly obvious method of telegraphing one's education, literary standards and general intelligence, I couldn't imagine it."
An "artfully worn" copy of Proust is apparently the death knell for a blind date. If you want to snag a second date with a member of the literati, by all means, leave the Beckett at home. In any event, showing up for a blind date with a book in hand is remarkably odd behavior.