Poor – narcissistic – mindset

Featured imageLast weekend, I was rereading Anna Karenina by Tolstoy – which is one of my favorite classic novels, I just can’t get enough of it!-, when I found myself rereading one particular line multiple times. This line seemed to summarize exactly what I was thinking about lately: people on social media who brag about their many “good deeds”. I don’t know exactly why, but it makes me furious.

I love the fact that a lot of people try to do something good for others, but please do it for the right reasons! I just feel like a lot of people do this to feel good about themselves. Still happy they do help other people with their narcissism. Nevertheless I cannot help but feel a little irritated when I see a lot of glorifying comments on their “good deeds”-statuses on social media. This feeling got a lot stronger when I heard the following story from my best friend. It does not have do something to do with “good deeds” in particular, but it does underline exactly what I mean.

My best friend went on a trip to Thailand and Vietnam. She was traveling with a group of people when they met a girl who was backpacking on her own. I think they only saw her for a day, but all the girl did was ask everyone to take pictures of her – the entire time!- . At some point, the group – and the girl – arrived at a place where some (poor) kids were playing. The girl asked my friend (or someone else of the group, not sure) to take a picture. When someone agreed the girl went on, grabbed a kid, smiled for the picture, put the kid down without saying a word and left. I don’t know if it’s just me (well, it was not, because my friend was also stunned by this), but I could not believe this. I mean, how does this even come to a person? This is not normal. Those kids are human beings, like you and me. It was not hard for me to imagine her social media status about “how fun it was to play with those kids” and how “she made them smile” (I also see that kind of pictures a lot).

I don’t think this story exactly applies to the Anna Karenina quote I wanted to share (I will never know for sure if she did post the picture with the kids on social media), but it does embody what I mean about the people on social media I was talking about. Also, I felt like I just had to share this story. It is horrible. So, everyone, please:

“It’s much better to do good in a way that no one knows anything about it”

– Leo Tolstoy

On the bright side: Anna Karenina is a wonderful novel and it contains many beautiful quotes. I would recommend it to everyone who has not read it yet. Also, still happy a lot of good is done out of a poor – narcissistic – mindset. 

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Poor – narcissistic – mindset

I am not ashamed of this.

I thinks it is time I confess some of my reading habits. 

1. When I bought a book of which I also loved the cover, I sometimes buy the Kindle version as well. Yes, just to keep it as new.

Some people can read a book and put it back in their bookshelf like no one ever touched it. Well, not me. I hate this about myself, but I always get folds and chocolate stains in it (I like to eat chocolate while reading, maybe I shouldn’t).

2. Sometimes I compare people I encounter with fictional characters.

I once compared someone to Shakespeare’s ‘Iago’ (from Othello), which was totally permissible.

3. I sniff my newly purchased books. 

I can’t help it! Love the smell. I can’t be the only one, right?

4. I have different “categorized” piles of books in every imaginable place in my house. 

I have a nice bookshelf which is half full, because I have all of these small piles of “currently reading”, “want to read”, “nice covers” and “just finished” -books. In my mind they are perfectly categorized, but to anyone else it probably just looks like a lot of piles of books.

5. I read at least three books at the same time. 

I need to have different books for different times of the day: a ‘before I go to sleep’-book, a ‘during the day’-book, and a book that is really light for when my mind is blur after listening to too many lectures in one day.

So these are my weird reading habits, anyone who recognizes this? Or anyone who has other habits to share? Please, tell me!!

I am not ashamed of this.

Awkward conversations with non-readers: part 2

As a comparative literature student and a self-proclaimed book-nerd, I often find myself in situations and conversations with people who do not like to read (at all). These conversation tend to range from very serious to hilarious, and I am sure many of you can relate to these type of situation.  I would like to share and take a look in the world of ‘a reader’, and share one of my stories every week. 

This week’s story outlines a situation that I have encountered many times – in many forms.

When I tell people I am a comparative literature student, one question almost always arises: “What is your favorite book?” I like to talk about books, and I am almost always willing to start a conversation about every literature related topic whatsoever. Nevertheless, I am always kind of afraid that this question pops up. To be honest, I can not name one favorite book of mine in particular, the list of books I love is pretty much endless, and it somehow feels like betrayal to name just one. Now, this is not something that is very weird, – I am pretty sure many of you book-addicts can even relate to this – but to people who are not that much into reading it sometimes seems kind of hard – almost unbearable – to understand. Mostly, the conversation that follows continues more or less like this:

Collocutor: There MUST be one book, just one, that you can name.

Me: Nope. But I do like most of/all the work of Tolstoj/ Márquez/ Stephen King /Whoever else I like to mention at that moment.

(10 seconds of silence to process)

Collocutor:  But there must be one in particular that is your true favorite! Which one is it?

Me: I really can not answer that question.

Collocutor: Off course you can! Think really hard!

This goes on for pretty much 2-5 minutes. At this point I am getting a little frustrated, because the conversation seems to turn into a never-ending discussion. To them, the fact that I can not name one book, is pretty much incomprehensible. Also, some people think asking the question in a louder and louder volume, might help; you never know, maybe their voice will suddenly hit the better part of my brain and – BAM! – I do know what my favorite book is!

At this point I often get a little frustrated, because I even begin to doubt myself: maybe I am weird for not having a favorite book? So, sometimes I turn to the one and only answer I allow myself in these type of situations: my emergency answer.

Me: Okay, my favorite book is Harry Potter.

(Long silence to process again)

Collocutor: Your favorite book is Harry Potter!? I mean, I like Harry Potter, but I thought you would name something more… literature-like, everyone can read Harry Potter.                          (note: this is so wrong, in so many ways)

So, this is where I put all my effort into leading the conversation to Harry Potter, away from the ‘name one favorite book’-question. To be clear, I do love Harry Potter. Also, I think everyone can read EVERY book, not just Harry Potter-like books. Lastly, I know everyone knows something about Harry Potter, which makes it easy to turn the never ending discussion into a normal conversation again.

I do still wonder if I am one of the few people who does not have one favorite book. How do other people, who do not have one particular favorite, handle these kind of situations? Anyone? Please, tell me! 

Awkward conversations with non-readers: part 2

An ode to R.L. Stine and J.K. Rowling: childhood nightmares and dreams

I am convinced dreams are as important as nightmares. Although dreams are more preferable, I think we do need an occasional nightmare for our dreams to remain valuFeatured imageable. When I was about eight years old I discovered both R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series as well as the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: both scared the hell out of me (although the fear I got from Goosebumps was on a whole other level, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named appeared in many of my nightmares as well). Nevertheless I am also very grateful to have read both as a kid. 

First, I would like to thank R.L. Stine for starting my endless love for the genre called horror, no doubt it started with his Goosebumps (and later on, Fear Street). I have read them all, and every single one of them gave me nightmares and numerous midnight cries. My parents always wondered why I kept reading them (luckily they never took the books away from me), and I myself do not have a clue either, except for the fact that they are also just a very good read. And still, I do this to myself: I know I get scared by scary stories, but I read (and watch horror movies) all the time. Recently, I have read and reread a lot of R.L. Stine’s work, every single one of them was as scary to me as it was eighteen years ago. It made me happy.

Although Voldermort was almost as scary to me as R.L. Stine’s Slappy the Dummy (in Dutch he is called ‘meneer van Houten’, which sounds way less scary!), J.K. Rowling is the one I would like to thank for my childhood dreams. My parents gave me my first Harry Potter book (which I do suspect to be an attempt to distract me from my Goosebumps collection, and additional nightmares). From the first page I was in love with Harry. I dreamed to be in Hogwarts all day, I have never hoped more for a fictional world to be real. I think all this dreaming made me a more creative person then I would have been otherwise: I created my own ‘wizarding world’ inside the one J.K. Rowling presented to me, a world that I could be part of. It started my own love for writing, and fed my love for reading.

An ode to R.L. Stine and J.K. Rowling: childhood nightmares and dreams

I have no words for this.

WFeatured imagehen I woke up this morning the sun was shining really bright, which made me instantly happy. So, I packed a book, some nice food and went to the park. Reading time!

When I got to the park, I instantly noticed that a lot of people were actually reading. And by a lot, I mean A LOT, like seventy percent of the people a lot. This is something that made me very happy, because lately all people read are other peoples social media statuses. Although it made me smile, it also made me kind of a creep. I´m way to curious about books and also other peoples reading habits, so I was (subconsciously) starring at other peoples books, eager to know what they were reading. Which took one really weird stare from a boy (who by the way was reading The Circle by Dave Eggers) for me to realize that it might creep the hell out of people. So I decided to focus on my own great piece of literature (which is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, not finished yet, but already love it).

After an hour or so, a mother and three young children sat next to me. Two of her children instantly ran to the playground. After ten minutes they were already sick of the swings and slides, so their mother gave them her iPhone to play games and not bother her while getting a tan. The third kid, on the other hand, starts reading a book (sadly, I could not see which book it was). After half an hour the mother suddenly stood up and grabbed the book out of the girls hands, yelling (in Dutch): “You have read enough for today. Go and play with your brothers, NOW!” I was stunned. Like, I was pretty sure I didn’t hear that correctly. I mean, I understand it is important for a kid to play with other kids. But, this mother stopped her daughter from reading a book, so she can play on an iPhone with her brothers. I would have completely understood her position if she had grabbed the tablet as well, and sent all three of them to the playground. I had to watch the girl go from smiling at her book to reluctantly watch her brothers play a game on a phone. It broke my heart.

I have no words for this.

Awkward conversations with non-readers

As a comparative literature student and a self-proclaimed book-nerd, I often find myself in situations and conversations with people who do not like to read (at all). These conversation tend to range from very serious to hilarious, and I am sure many of you can relate to these type of situation.  I would like to share and take a look in the world of ‘a reader’, and share one of my stories every week. 

This week’s story outlines a situation that I have encountered many times – in many forms.

When in public, – a social event, at work, etc. -, meeting new people, one of the first questions that almost always arises is: “What do you study?” When I first started studying I was always thrilled to answer that I am a comparative literature student. I thought it was cool, something few people (at least in my country – the Netherlands) did. That has changed, A LOT. Lately, I catch myself literally shuddering when someone (especially people who never dare to touch a book)  ‘pops the question’. Don’t get me wrong, I like that people try to be interested in something that they do not care for. But most of the time they don’t even try to hide it, which leaves the rest of the conversation hanging between really awkward and predictable. Nine out of ten times this is how the conversation continues:

Me: I study comparative literature.

(10 second silence)

Collocutor: So, do you have to read a lot of books?

Me: Yes, I read at least three books a week.

(10 seconds of shock)

Collocutor: THREE BOOKS A WEEK? That is a lot. Do you still have time to do things you like?

Me: Yes, but reading is one of them.

(At this point most of the people forget they were acting interested. Also, they have reached a level beyond shock. It might be that they just realized for the first time that some people actually like to read books)

Collocutor: I don’t get how one can like reading, it’s the most boring thing. I never read. Well, sometimes when I am on vacation I do.

(a few seconds of silence – probably trying to remember the title of one of the two books he/she once read. – I do like to learn about other peoples reads, but in this type of conversations this is almost always the worst point, by far)

Collocutor: I did read (this can be any type of book, but most of the time they name some kind of Fantasy book I have never heard of.) once. It was great! Did you read it?

Me: No, sorry, never heard of it. But If you name me the author I can l maybe look it up (If it really is great, I would not want to miss it!)

(Stares a few seconds in true horror)

Collocutor: You don’t know it!? I thought you studied literature. How can you not know it!?

At this point I am almost upset, which is in some way also targeted on my own short commings as a human: a human life is simply not long enough to read all books ever written or even all the books on my (never ending) to-read list (oh, how I wish I could read them all). And I am sure many other readers once came to this conclusion. Maybe I should keep in mind that it is not something that has crossed a non-readers mind. So, for once and for all: no! I did not read your favorite book, I did not read A LOT OF BOOKS. Thanks for asking.

Awkward conversations with non-readers

Paper Towns – John Green

Peeing is like a good book in that it is very, very hard to stop once you start.

– John Green, Paper Towns 

Paper Towns Paperback

I felt like I missed out on something, not having read (or watched) John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Nevertheless, I wasn’t planning on reading it any time soon. I guess it kind of scares me because it’s supposed to be really sad (don’t get me wrong, I like to have a good cry over a book every now and then, but I think this one will get under my skin a bit too much).

Then, I happened to come across the trailer of Paper Towns, which is an adaptation to John Green’s same name novel. The trailer starred Cara Delevingne (I love Cara!) and it seemed like a movie I would definitely enjoy to watch. So I immediately went to a bookshop and bought the paperback version, following my number one rule (which I will not ignore ever again): always read the novel before watching the movie, because you know you are going to regret it if you don’t. Also, I had just finished reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace, so I really needed something more ‘light’ to read.

In short, Paper Towns describes how main character Quentin Jacobsen’s crush Margo Roth Spiegelman disappears after the two had a pretty adventurous night. Quentin starts looking for Margo using the clues she left for him all around town. I don’t want to spoiler anything, so this is all I will say about the plot.

It took me exactly one day to read it. For the most, because I just needed to know the ending. It really felt a bit like peeing (see this posts quote). I just could not help myself, all I cared for in the 24 hours I spent (mostly) reading the novel, was what happened to Margo Roth Spiegelman. But, to be honest, I found the ending to be a bit disappointing. Although, that might have been the consequence of my own expactations while reading it. Nevertheless, the novel itself was a very easy read, with nice characters and an exciting storyline. For me, Paper Towns embodies what I expect a YA-novel to be.

Now I am only left wondering if I should read The Fault in Our Stars after all.

xx

Paper Towns – John Green