What are you reading?
“Sister Carrie, by Theodore Dreiser.”
Tell me about the plot.
“It’s about a young girl who moves to Chicago around 1890. She’s from a small town, and she finds out how you become entangled when you move to the city. Two men end up falling in love with her. It was a controversial book because Dreiser sympathizes with the young woman and with her being seduced.”
What character stands out for you?
“What stands out to me — with a good writer — aren’t so much the main characters as the minor characters. When Carrie first moves to the city, she moves in with her sister and her sister’s husband. They’re workers, and there are these subtle comments about how they live their life. It seems like, if the minor characters seem unreal, then the main characters seem unreal.”
Who is your favorite author?
“Proust, who is an extremely flowery author, and Thomas Mann, who is much more philosophical. Normally, I read books about Europe to kind of distract myself from America. Sister Carrie is interesting for me — it’s sort of about the origins of American culture. It has a very blunt American style. It’s not like Hemingway; he’s not trying to be really masculine. It’s trying to get at very subtle emotions, but it’s done in a very American style of language. Dreiser was a journalist, so it’s a form of language that’s very familiar to us now, but it seems like people have lost the ability to write — with our email culture, it’s like there’s not a possibility of expressing subtle emotions.”
What book has been most life-changing for you?
“Probably Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain. It’s a very long book — like, 700 pages — but it’s necessary. It sort of shows how, if you don’t have a firm stance about the larger world, you slowly become entangled. This young man goes to a sanitarium for people with tuberculosis, and he gets entangled in the sanitarium culture of idleness. A lot of times, it’s the opposite — a young person doesn’t have opinions and then ends up having them. In the novel, it’s almost the reverse, but it happens very, very slowly.”
What magazines or newspapers do you read?
“I do read the Reader, actually. And I look at a music magazine called The Wire. But I get news off the computer.”
Do you talk to your friends about what you read?
“I don’t think many people like to read today. I have one friend who actually likes to read. We talk about maybe some of the ideas that are expressed, how they’re expressed. A lot of times, we end up talking about how these things have been lost and aren’t expressed anymore, or if they are, people tend to miss it.”
Why do you read?
“Because of the sense that there has to be something more important than going to parties and buying things. I’m not an anti-materialist, but it’s just the sense that there has to be something more, and finding ways of expressing that.”
You take greater satisfaction in reading, the life of the mind?
“On the one hand I do, but on the other hand, it can make you feel isolated.”
Name: Brett Sanders | Age: 27 | Occupation: Student and Guitar Teacher
Neighborhood: Encinitas | Where interviewed: Pannikin Coffee & Tea, Del Mar