We pick up a lot of cues on compatibility from cultural currency. Yankees fans, Dead Heads, foodies--we learn from all these symbolic appellations, for better or worse.
In discussing the concept of libraries with the fine folks at Observatory (link at end), and then packing my own ad hoc library of books, I went through a laundry cycle of emotions as I handled the books people have given or recommended to me.
Imagine, a taxonomy of these cues.
Think of the Wodehouse collection.
Would I have ever read Maugham were it not for him?
How many double-takes have you gotten from Blood Meridian?
How many reference books were gifts? And all from the same person?
I will never read that conspiracy theory on 9-11 gifted by the Frenchman,
nor will I ever forget being read Possession in bed by the American.
How strange that two totally unrelated and wildly different people should recommend Flann O'Brien. One because he loved him and the other because she didn't,
I can think of a handful of occasions in which I laughed myself into a complete splinter.
Once, replete in a marching band uniform pepping up our high school football game, Albert Morales and I (drum line, whut?!) started talking about how ridiculous it looks when kids get their heads stuck in the neck of their sweater. Yeah, we were wearing shakos and making fun of kids taking off their sweaters...
More recently, Urian Brown was describing JoJo's Bizarre Adventure (still arguably the most ridiculous manga in comics history) at Gobo in Greenwich Village. You really had to be there, but just imagine someone named Urian Brown acting out this:
and there's a chi-chi juice bar in the background.
In grad school, I almost got expelled for laughing during a speech because the female Korean professor kept being referred to as Ja instead of Ja-Hyun, and my stoner buddy Andy Rodekhor kept muttering, "Ja, Rastafari." (Sigh) College...
Last year Michelle and I rolled up and down Park Avenue laughing after a long night drinking at some Irish pub by Irving Plaza. Michelle told the bartender her name was Anne Ishii and then started sucking his face off. Yes. That's what made us laugh hysterically.