Thursday, May 1, 2014

Books and Culture With Laura

Of Books and Men
by Laura Scanlon

It’s what’s on the inside that counts. 

Don’t judge a book by its cover. 

Appearances are deceiving.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion provides a delightful illustration of the truth behind these clichés. The book’s protagonist is Don Tillman, a brilliant but extremely awkward professor. Don, the book implies, has Asperger Syndrome but doesn’t know it.

If you or I were to meet Don, we probably wouldn’t like him much. He makes rude, inappropriate comments. He doesn’t laugh at other people’s jokes. He comes off as an argumentative know-it-all. He dresses funny.

Because he narrates the novel, however, we see Don for who he really is. We see his steady nature, his dedication, his capacity for love and self-sacrifice. We understand the logic behind his bizarre behavior. We understand why so many social mores elude him, and we ache at the pain he feels but doesn’t show.

A woman named Rosie enters Don’s world. She is intelligent and beautiful but not at all what Don imagined his ideal wife to be. She shakes up his world and he falls in love. (You’ve seen the basic plot line already in one or two or a dozen romantic comedies, but don’t let that deter you.)

We hope that Rose will look past the awkwardness and realize what a great guy Don is. We hope she learns to love him for who he is. (Hint: she does.)

The Rosie Project brought to mind a book I read a while ago, Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, by Lori Gottlieb. (Checking it out from the library as a married woman was rather embarrassing for me. I suppose it would be embarrassing for a single woman as well. . . . It would be even more embarrassing for a man. It’s just an all-around embarrassingly-titled book, and the author got some flak for it. But I digress.) 

In Marry Him, the author recounts wasting her younger years in dating sexy, exciting, yet unsuitable men. She bypassed potential spouses who were steady, kind, and responsible because she focused on external qualities that, too late, she realized were not so important after all.

The “settling” that Ms. Gottlieb proposes does not entail resigning oneself to an unhappy marriage. Rather, it’s about looking past the exterior qualities that don’t last and focusing on the interior qualities that do. It is about Rosie learning to love Don, and vice versa.

While thinking about these books, I look over at the guy who is sitting next to me in bed playing Starcraft on his laptop. And I want to kick myself. So often I am blinded by the dirty socks on the floor and the [list of my husband’s annoying yet harmless proclivities that I shall not publicize]. In the day to day of marriage and parenting I look over (or worse, take for granted) my husband’s patience, his love, his work ethic, and the scores of other reasons he was a good catch.

Thank you, Mr. Simsion and Ms.Gottlieb, for two therapeutic kicks in the pants. And for making them so fun to read. 

Laura is a Catholic Christian, a mother, a part-time lawyer, and a recovering overthinker. She writes monthly here at Atelier on books and culture, and blogs regularly at This Felicitous Life.

1 comment:

  1. I think that's one reason having gotten married at age 40, maturity helped me throw away the old "checklist" I'd had for a "perfect spouse" when I was in my 20's and look at the substance of the man. I got more than I deserved in my husband. I'm hoping he feels the same.


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