Books Too Embarrassing To Read In Public
This week I got lectured at by a co-worker for reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in public. It’s a long story, and I’ll tell it soon, but I’m embarrassed by something I did (it had nothing to do with reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in public). But being criticized about it made me think about the books that I don’t want to be seen reading.
When I was in junior high, I had a copy of Massage Parlor II by Jennifer Sills. I probably shouldn’t have had it, but I did, and I read it during study hall in school. No teacher ever took it away from me. Study hall teachers seemed to only care if students talked, so if I didn’t talk, I got left alone, and they never noticed that I was reading a book I shouldn’t have had. When I was done (I think I read it several times), I loaned out my copy to my friends who read it during study hall (and maybe took it home, but I don’t think about that anymore). The point is that I’d never read a book like that in public anymore. I wouldn’t read a Fifty Shades of Grey type of book. It would be embarrassing. I wouldn’t do it.
I don’t read political books in public anymore because people argue too much and get too angry too quickly. I don’t want anybody who disagrees with me seeing me reading a political book and then starting an argument with me in public. Arguing about politics in public is more humiliating than reading a sex book in public. And I really don’t want somebody who agrees with me to start a conversation either. I’m usually more embarrassed by the people who agree with me because when they say something stupid, I feel like I’m associated with them.
I’m not suggesting that I’m more enlightened about politics than everyone else. I’m just as likely to say something stupid as anybody else who talks politics, and that’s why I don’t want to talk politics (or read about politics) in public.
If I have to go to jury duty, I might pretend to read a book about politics. I have an Ann Coulter book jacket that I slip onto the novel that I’m reading whenever I get called to jury duty. If I hold up the book jacket while the lawyers are looking over the jury pool, I’m always sent home quickly.
I’m not really trying to get out of jury duty. I’d gladly serve, but I’ve learned that where I live, people in my demographic group don’t get selected, so if I’m not going to get selected, I might as well not get selected quickly than stick around all day to not get selected. Before Ann Coulter, I’d stick around all day and then not get selected. With Ann Coulter, I’m home before lunch.
I usually don’t care if people see what novels I’m reading, but there’s one book that I wouldn’t be caught dead with. That’s Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. I’m a middle-aged bald guy with two daughters who have their friends over all the time. The last thing I need is to be seen reading Lolita.
Other than being a middle-aged guy, I’m not like Humbert Humbert in any way (except I might be an unreliable narrator sometimes, but not about this). I’m not obsessed with anything or anybody that I shouldn’t be obsessed with. It’s just that I don’t want people to think that I’m obsessed with things I’m not obsessed about. So I’m not going to be seen with that book.
I don’t want to be associated in any way with Lolita. I’m not reading that book. I’m not going ever let that book in my house. I won’t even put it on my phone. If I get called to jury duty, I will not take it with me, even with an Ann Coulter jacket on it. I won’t even take an Ann Coulter book with a Lolita jacket on it. I would be embarrassed to be seen reading Lolita in public or in my house.
People already assume I’m a bit strange because I’m quiet. I don’t need the reputation of being the quiet guy who reads Lolita while a bunch of teen girls are running around my house. If I ever take my daughters to a house and the parent is a quiet guy reading Lolita, I’ll politely take my daughters back home with me.
I’m sure Lolita has some literary value, but somebody else can explain it.
What books are you too embarrassed to read in public? What book jacket would you take to get out of jury duty?
Even if you are embarrassed to read my book The Writing Prompt in public, it’ll be on your phone, or tablet, or Kindle, so nobody else will know.