Alex Massie

It’s not the books, it’s you...

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God forgive me, but I do enjoy tales of woe from the Manhattan dating scene. The latest dispatch from the front lines comes courtesy of Rachel Donadio in today's New York Times and happily it doesn't disappoint. At the outset the experienced reader knows this is going to be a corker:

Some years ago, I was awakened early one morning by a phone call from a friend. She had just broken up with a boyfriend she still loved and was desperate to justify her decision. “Can you believe it!” she shouted into the phone. “He hadn’t even heard of Pushkin!”

We've all been there.

Oh dear. The horror!

Let’s face it — this may be a gender issue. Brainy women are probably more sensitive to literary deal breakers than are brainy men. (Rare is the guy who’d throw a pretty girl out of bed for revealing her imperfect taste in books.) After all, women read more, especially when it comes to fiction.

Well! Alternatively, perhaps "brainy men" aren't as neurotic and self-absorbed as the sort of "brainy" Manhattan women who tend to populate these plangent tales?

Happily there is, for once, one note of common sense:

Marco Roth, an editor at the magazine n+1, said: “I think sometimes it’s better if books are just books. It’s part of the romantic tragedy of our age that our partners must be seen as compatible on every level.”

Indeed. The desperate cry that "He hates Virginia Woolf; we had no future together" rather suggests that what these poor women* really want to do is date themselves...

*The same is obviously true of men who ditch girls because they don't "get" Wodehouse or prefer Anna Karenina to War and Peace. They're idiots too.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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