Saturday, 16 April 2011

My first encounter with trash

Susan's blog post reminded me of a weird experience many years ago. I was a voracious reader and was brought up with high quality literature, and besides there wasn't a lot of what you call "mass-market" literature in my country at that time. Since we were not exposed to it, we didn't really know the difference, and we would read Arthur Hailey alongside John Updike. I read a lot in English, and English paperbacks were hard to get hold of, so you read what was available, what privileged friends brought from abroad, what you could occasionally buy in second-hand book shops. A used paperback cost 4-5 roubles, and my salary was 100. Don't ask me how I managed.

One summer a friend and I went on holiday to Latvia, and although we had brought plenty of books, we ran out of them. We found a second-hand book shop in the capital, and they had a small shelf with English paperbacks. We chose a book each, in the standard way: judging by the cover. I don't remember the title or the author of course, but it was about a family on holiday in the mountains who find a stranger almost frosen to death, and they save him, and the daughter falls in love with him. Half way through the book I started wondering. I expected something to happen. That the stranger turns out ot be a spy, or a former lover tries to claim her back, or something. I was used to books having a plot, a complication, a moral dilemma. But the book just went on with this happy romance. I was puzzled because I had never before met a book that was so profoundly bad. Twilight is a masterpiece in comparison.

1 comment:

Anna said...

I miss our Moscow second-hand book stores so much! This thrill of finding something promising and unexpected has never been repeated.

Did you hear a story about a guy finding the "Animal Farm" in the Husbandry section of Bookinist? In the seventies?