Overcoming my reluctance, I finally went to see a book matchmaker because, well, though I had been with a lot of good reads lately, I was looking for the Book Perfect! You know, that special ONE? The one that comes along only once in a while, and when it does, it just knocks your reading glasses off? The one that makes you laugh out loud, shed a tear (but in a good way), gives you advice and support when you need it, is honest and straightforward, doesn’t try to sell you bullshit? I know, I know, It was a lot to ask, but I had my dreams….
The matchmaker was a pleasant-looking lady of middle age, average height, and a weight which placed her rather closer to the upper end of the, ah, ‘full-figured’ category. She was the kind of woman who wore sensible shoes, support hose, tweed skirts topped by twin sets, short hair sprayed into immobility, minimal jewelry, no make-up and the requisite bifocals on a beaded, extra-long chain, to make allowances for the ample bosom beyond which these glasses had to hang when not perched on the end of her nose.
She had a no-nonsense way about her, getting right to the heart of the matter, just after we greeted one another and exchanged the very briefest of pleasantries while sitting down. Handing me a multi-page questionnaire and a blue regulation pen, she said she would return in fifteen minutes and promptly left the room.
A quarter of an hour later, on the dot, she marched back in and, looking at me with expectant eyes, sat down behind her desk. Her hand shot out in my direction, eager to grasp the pages which would tell her what she needed to know to create her matchmaking magic.
I confess, I was skeptical. How could I not be when the questions I was asked to respond to had nothing to do with my reading preferences or history? They weren’t in any way personal in nature, they wanted to know nothing specific! General to the point of innocuous, I can’t now remember a single one of them.
The matchmaker went to work. For half an hour I watched in silence while she tapped the keys of her computer, feverishly feeding my replies into a secret program she was rumored to have written herself. Finally, with triumph, she pressed the last “Enter”, removed he bifocals which duly came to rest suspended just below her frontal overhang, looked at me with eyes crinkled in mirth and a smile on her lips, winked, then leaned back in her chair and sighed with satisfaction.
“Rupert will tell us everything we need to know!”, she said.
“Rupert?” I had no idea who she was talking about.
“My program, of course!” She stroked the side of her computer lovingly. “I named it Rupert!“
Soon, Rupert, in his algorithmic wisdom, sent his answers to the printer standing nearby. I expected to see a single name emerge - the title of my quintessential read. Instead, the printer hummed for several lines, paused, then printed some more on another page, paused again, printed one line on the third sheet and, finally, fell silent.
The matchmaker explained, “This first page--,” she waved it at me, “-- shows you profile - what you look for in a book, what you want from it, the attributes it must posses.” Rather than handing the information to me, she replaced the dangling bifocals back on her nose and began to read:
“First - the choices you make are indeed intellectual (as they should be) but also somewhat emotional and always filled with hope. Hope that the prospective book and you are compatible, that it will speak in a language you’ll respect and therefore enjoy. You want it to be well written or else you feel compelled to walk away and soon.
Second - your reading must lead to your learning. Learning of other times, people, places, situations, other thoughts, wisdoms and opinions, other mistakes and other solutions. It has to bring you closer to answering the questions you have or, perhaps, to recognizing the questions you failed to ask. You have to relate to the story, see yourself in it, somewhere, somehow. In a word, you have to ‘feel’ it.
Third - You like a book to have takeout, to hand you, if you will, a doggie bag at the end, after the last page, one filled with food for further thought.
If your ‘ideal’ book doesn’t do all that, you are not satiated, you’re left disappointed and wanting.” She looked up at me. “For you, it’s rather like eating rice crackers - a lot of chewing for nothing!” She giggled at the analogy which was of her own making. Rupert did not have the wherewithal for such frivolity.
I was astonished. The profile was spot on but how did Rupert know all that? The questionnaire asked about nothing in particular yet there they were - all my edification desires in a nutshell!
My thoughts were interrupted by the voice of the matchmaker who continued reading:
“This next page lists book types you are not attracted to. It is rather general, just to give some idea of what you shy away from:
Biographies - You prefer to hold on to your illusions (however off the mark they may be) and know the famous people you like or admire largely through the body of their work. Rather like the fans of Joan Crawford, you don’t want to feel the emotions “Mommy Dearest” must have unleashed. As for autobiographies, Rupert says I should not even mention these!” She looked quizzically at me.
She went on, “Young Adult - You read “Bonjour Tristesse” but that’s about it.
Science Fiction - “Neuromancer” was your first foray into the genre. Talk about jumping in at the deep end!” She laughed. “You nearly drowned in that one and have been leery of this particular pool ever since.
Stories of redemption, prodigal offspring seeing the light and returning to the embrace of their loved ones, love conquers all, uplifting and/or moving, sickly sweet - Not for you.
Romance - Their Freude causes you Schaden.
Horror - Their Schaden gives you no Freude.”
Dumbfounded, all I could do was stare in amazement!
Dumbfounded, all I could do was stare in amazement!
“Finally,--” the matchmaker said, ‘-- we come to your perfect, ideal match!”
I expected a drumroll.
There was silence.
Without another word, she handed me the last page. The single line read:
“On writing” by Stephen King