Written by Ella Walker


Shelf Life

This week Ella Walker assesses Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari. Is it worthy of a permanent place on her shelf?

open book with flowersWas it love at first sight?

Despite the blingy hearts pasted over Aziz Ansari’s eyes, it wasn’t the cover that attracted me to Modern Romance. It was the fact that beneath those hearts stood a man who starred in Parks and Recreation. And I love Parks and Recreation.

How long did it take you to feel truly comfortable around each other?

How could you not feel comfy around Aziz Ansari? He’s smart, he’s funny, he’s cute, and he starts with a story from his own life where he got fobbed off by a girl via text (in fact, by the lack of one). Bet she’s regretting that now…

How would you describe it behind its back?

An intriguing idea – investigating the trappings, rules and weird games humans play in our mission to fulfil biological imperatives – that sometimes loses momentum. We all know that you never reply to a text from a date immediately, and yet many a page is dedicated to text etiquette.

“Basically, I voyeuristically just wanted more slices of Ansari’s romantic history, and when that wasn’t forthcoming, leapt straight into Google.”

However, what is fascinating are findings on how hunting for a partner has changed over the decades, how technology is both incredible and highly toxic when it comes to building relationships, and how we’re so swamped by choice it’s no wonder our heads and hearts are all in a muddle.

Did it make you laugh out loud?

There are chuckleworthy moments a-plenty, but it’s not hilarious. This is a serious study, don’tcha know?

Modern Romance coverYou’ve had a nightmare time. Would it provide the understanding to get you through/soak up your tears?

If your nightmare time was relationship related, it would definitely provide comfort in the form of a hefty reminder that you are by no means alone. Well, your bed might be empty and your heart torn to shreds, but at least you’re not the only one suffering with loneliness/fielding dick pics.

Would you let it meet your other friends?

My other friends have been begging to borrow it since I mentioned I had it (I keep being told “you HAVE to watch Master of None, it’s AH-MAZING.” Two episodes in, I’m not quite understanding the fuss, but apparently I have to persevere and at some point I will fall head-over-heels for Anzari’s short frame and “adorable paunch” – that’s a direct quote. Annoying when I could be watching repeat episodes of Tim Riggins in Friday Night Lights. God, I love Netflix).

How would you describe your commitment levels – did you put the effort in?

The book definitely earned more commitment than Master of None has so far. The problem is, there were whole chunks where my attention wavered and the words: “Well that’s obvious,” flashed before my eyes.

I expected it to be funnier, more anecdotal and less like a serious investigation into the hearts and minds of real-life singles (it is very thorough and empirical, so much so it took me back to my psychology A-level coursework days… ugh).

Basically, I voyeuristically just wanted more slices of Ansari’s romantic history, and when that wasn’t forthcoming, leapt straight into Google. I’m sorry, OK!?

Could you take it on holiday with you, without getting severely hacked off after three days?

It’s not a beach holiday book (for a book about romance, there’s nothing slushy and escapist about it); however, it’d be great on a long train journey for analysis purposes, particularly if your carriage is full of will-they-won’t-they couples, singles morosely checking their messages and people arguing on the phone (the jackpot for any long-journey eavesdroppers).

If you suddenly stumbled across it after several years of lost contact, do you reckon you would:
a) Think of it fondly but accept you’d both moved on (keep but don’t read)
b) Pick up exactly where you left off (reread every few years)
c) Ditch it, obviously you were never really friends.

I would say this in this instance it’s half an a) because I have already set the book free, to be passed round by my Tinder-sick friends. So yes, I will think of it fondly, but then I doubt I’ll get it back. People are always so rubbish at retuning books (I’m just as guilty).

Next month Ella will be reading A God In Ruins by Kate Atkinson.


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Written by Ella Walker

Ella Walker is an entertainment writer and book blogger living in Cambridge. She likes swimming in the sea and eating biscuits. Preferably at the same time.