You can’t judge a book by it’s cover, but books can tell you a lot about your future daughter-in-law
My husband and I briefly dated when we were teenagers. At the time, his dad had this awesome sailboat that he would take out onto the Great Salt Lake. Yes, it is a little known secret that once you get past the brine flies, the mud, and the stinking dead fish salty smell, the Great Salt Lake offers some of the coolest sailing ever.
It was while the sails of the boat were happily filled with air and the boat hit cruising speed that my future father in law decided to grill me.
“What kind of restaurants do you like?” he asked me. I told him I really love a good steakhouse, that good ‘ol American food was my favorite. My future eternal companion stood behind his father, and shook his head vigorously and made a slashing sign across his neck.
“Um, I mean, you know, I actually LOVE Chinese food, too”, I stammered, glancing at dh’s face. He nodded, and gave me a thumbs up.
“What kind of furniture do you like?” the future grandfather of my children asked. I was flummoxed, and sort of went along with whatever he suggested, like yeah, I’d like a dresser that stood up on it’s two feet. I mean, how many 17 year old girls think about their dressers? I pretended that I cared long enough for him to move on to the next question.
The man peered at me for several seconds and then said, “I need to know more about you.” Then he leaned in closer and looked directly in my eyes and said, “What was the last book you read?”
I knew this was THE QUESTION, the question that would decide, once and for all, if I was good enough to date this man’s only son. I shot of look of helplessness to my soon to be beloved, and he just sort of shrugged, like, ‘You’re on your own, babe.” I wracked my brain, trying to come up with something that would satisfy the patriarch, while at the same time not making it supremely obvious that the only thing I had read in the last 6 months was textbooks for class. I briefly considered lying, but I felt sure this man would see through my literary ruse.
“Um, well. I just finished a Tony Hillerman novel?” I said, making it sound more like a question, asking for approval, bracing for the inevitable condemnation about reading a mystery novel.
“Ah, Tony Hillerman. He writes about Navajos, right?”
“His stuff is well researched. He captures the essence of the Navajo and Hopi culture very well. You know, I’ve met quite a few Mormon artists from the Rez, and they’re very good. Let me tell you why,” and he was off on another topic, the topic of Mormon art, his very favorite topic in the world. I breathed a sigh of relief and looked over at future dh. He smiled a small smile, and flashed the thumbs up sign again.
5 years later and 2 weeks before I actually got the shiny ring on my finger, my fiancee took me home to meet his family again. The scene replayed itself almost exactly, except that this time, instead of being on a tranquil sail boat in the middle of the Great Salt Lake, I was cornered in dh’s kitchen, with his father staring at me with his arms folded, and his mother standing next to him.
“My son doesn’t bring home girls. He brings home books. How serious are you about my son?”
I gulped and shrugged and said, “Um, pretty serious.”
“I need to know more about you,” he said, staring intently. Again he leaned forward, and again he asked, “What books have you read lately?”
I was prepared this time, and rattled off my list. He listened, and nodded in approval. Apparently, I passed.
If you ask my father-in-law, he will make no secret about judging people by the books they read. I suppose music is also some kind of signal to him, but somebody’s literary taste still reigns supreme, I think, in forming his opinion of other people.
Do you judge other by the books they read? Are there certain books that are a signal to you, both good and bad? We’ve talked on this blog about what certain Mormon publications can signal to other people. Do books do the same thing?
I’ll be honest here–when somebody tells me that she just doesn’t read novels, I (unfairly, I know) automatically assume that she and I will probably have little in common. On the other hand, when somebody tells me she LOVED the book, “Till We Have Faces”, by C.S. Lewis, well then. This person and I have to go to lunch, ASAP, and split a tiramisu while we talk.
So tell me if you ever have similar feelings about literary choices. And if any of you love “Till We Have Faces”, I’ve got a table for two and a tiramisu with your name on it.