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I found myself thinking blasphemous thoughts today: What is the point in reading this book?

I was choosing which book to start next for fun, and it came down to a battle between The Marriage Plot and Sima’s Undergarments for Women. The first is famous if you’re in the literary world: The Marriage Plot is by Jeffrey Eugenides, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and just came out this Christmas with the help of a pretty heavy marketing campaign. But Sima’s Undergarments for Women, by Ilana Stranger-Ross, is somewhat of an unknown. (That’s misleading: it has over 100 reviews on Goodreads, which is a very good number indicating many readers, but to me it’s an unknown because I found it all by myself in the corner of a bookstore and have never heard of anyone who has heard of it.)

I ended up deciding on Sima’s, for a variety of reasons that were practical (it had bigger type, which is easier to read while exercising) as well as literary (was I really up for something as heavy as a Pulitzer-prize winning novel this morning?). Enter the blasphemous thoughts. As I walked to class, I figured I’d be done with the book this weekend, or today if it really grabbed me, and then it would go on my bookshelf and I’d think of it only every now and then. This is what happens with most books I read: they’re a source of pleasure while I’m reading them, but afterwards, unless I’m actually reminded of them, they disappear into the myriad of fictional worlds I’ve read before.

And as I was thinking this, I realized that I wouldn’t feel the same if it were The Marriage Plot in my backpack. Devoting my time to Eugenides somehow seems more productive and consequential, even though the difference is really that he’s won a prestigious award and Stranger-Ross has not. But that’s not really the difference, is it? Continue reading