I spent most of the day reading Return of the King. This should surprise nobody, and I think my devotion to Lord of the Rings deserves its own set of posts. It also explains this post’s title.
Anyway, toward evening I decided I needed a latte. Specifically, a raspberry mocha. I haven’t had Starbucks in a while, so that was as good an excuse as any. As I didn’t want to deal with the college crowd at the Tennessee Starbucks, I headed to North Monroe – the Starbucks inside Barnes and Noble. Because then I could buy books! I would see what they had that was interesting and stock up on Nabokov and maybe pick up some other things and ALSO get my latte. All-around good idea.
So I’m walking through BN. I picked up the 2 Nabokov books they have in stock that I don’t already have. I picked up two other books, by some miracle decided I didn’t actually need them, and set them back down. I got my raspberry mocha and wondered if it’s actually possible to make a diluted beverage with burnt espresso. I headed toward the cashier and got in line behind four college students.
I have mixed feelings about The Public. Sometimes I absolutely hate everyone, and sometimes I really enjoy other people’s antics. This is particularly true with college students (yes, guilty.) Sometimes I want to say CAN’T YOU ACT LIKE ADULTS and other times, I laugh right along with them.
Tonight was one of those nights. They were bantering about some literature or other, prompted by the bookmark rack, when one girl said she had never read LotR. Right on cue, the guy in the group becomes absolutely incensed. “YOU’VE NEVER READ LORD OF THE RINGS?! IT’S THE BEST BOOK EVER!” Classic LotR-fan flip-out. (There was a time where I was like this. I am sorry.) She explained that she just couldn’t get past Tolkien’s prose style. To his credit he conceded, saying it was incredibly wordy, but that it was lyrical. I personally wouldn’t go that far, reserving “lyrical” for Nabokov, but I understood his point. They went on like this for a while. I started laughing. I said to them, “I’m sorry guys, but I have to laugh. Because I’m actually reading Return of the King for the seventh time, but I completely sympathize with you,” (looking at the girl) “it’s tough to get through. Especially until you get past The Council of Elrond, especially the first time. I can totally respect that.” He looked stunned, not least for the 7th-time thing. She was pleasantly surprised that I, clearly a LotR fanatic, actually respected her opinion. He went to pay for something. She told me her mom re-read LotR once a year and always tried to get her to read it, but she just couldn’t. Understandable.
She said she likes Jane Austen. I can’t say I’ve ever read any, but I showed her the two books I held – Pale Fire and Speak, Memory. I told her they were by the author of Lolita and she got wide-eyed. “Are all his other books just as good?” Oh yes. Definitely. She went to her friends who had checked out, and I went to the incredibly friendly cashier.
“How are you this evening? OOOH THIS ONE’S MY FAVORITE!” flipping through Pale Fire. Clearly, an even bigger Nabokov fan than I, we totally bonded. We discussed what ones we read, why they were awesome. She told me about Laura, and how it’s only available in super-expensive hardcover but it’s probably worth it for the tear-out facsimiles of his handwritten notecards. Other Russian literature: Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov. It honestly made my day to find someone who got so excited about real Russian literature instead of asking, “oh, who’s that? Oh, Lolita. Yeah, I guess I heard of it. Do you like Danielle Steele?”
As Elrond said, “…you may find friends upon your way when you least look for it.” It is good to know that there are such people in the world.