Bookshelves are not for displaying books you've read -- those books go in your office, or near your bed, or on your Facebook profile. Rather, the books on your shelves are there to convey the type of person you would like to be. I am the type of person who would read long biographies of Lyndon Johnson, despite not being the type of person who has read any long biographies of Lyndon Johnson. I am the type of person who is very interested in a history of the Reformation, but am not, as it happens, the type of person with the time to read 900 pages on the subject. More importantly, I am the type of person who amasses many books, on all sorts of subjects. I'm pretty sure that's what a bookshelf is there to prove. The reading of those books is entirely incidental.Awhile back, I read (I think it was Harpers, but I might be wrong) that some goof put a note on the same page of a book that had received a great deal of hype among the literati, inviting the recipient to send it back and receive a cash reward equal to the price of the book. The rebate was placed so that it wouldn't fall out or be seen unless the book's purchaser actually turned to the page it was located, presumably forcing the recipient to actually read the book to collect the reward. In the end, only two out of one hundred coupons were redeemed, thus showing that most of the books in the realm of Serious Fiction are purchased to be seen, and not read. Or perhaps it only shows that most of the people who indulge in the reading of Serious Fiction are too wealthy to be bothered by rebate offers under $50.
February 07, 2008
Ezra Klein has some nice posts today, two on Obama and the internet, and one on a phenomenum I alluded to a few weeks ago when I wrote about Rachel Cusk and the micro-culture of people who actually read Serious Fiction. Klein notes: