A Natural Philistine

August 8, 2008 at 10:29 pm | Posted in Book Blather | 2 Comments

I stumbled across the following comment in a review for The Dumbest Generation on Amazon.com.  It was titled, “Get a real job, Academic Slob.”

I used to read a lot of books. I always had a book in my coat pocket. My collection is the envy of my friends – a lot of signed books including Marv Albert’s signature in Franny and Zooey. You know what all that reading got me? A bed that was never over crowded. And a constant feeling that I was doomed. Most books are really depressing. They are written by people who have major psychological issues. They are drunks and junkies. They are mean and bitter. Many of them eventually kill themselves. Once I cut back on my reading – restricting it to the bathroom, I became happier with myself. Once I quit embracing the warmth of intellectual alienation, I was able to love others and let myself be loved. I didn’t feel doomed to live a quiet and solitary life with my eyes glued to a page. And I got laid.Who cares about the speaker of the house? Or the winner of American Idol? If given a choice between knowing either, you might as well give me the electro shock therapy. Do we need to keep engaging the moronic work of a lifelong academic who sucks off the teats of the dumb kids he detests? The college dork needs to get a real job like pushing a hotdog cart around Atlanta.


Hotdog cart?  Do you suppose this reader is referencing Confederacy of Dunces?  Would this simply back up his claim that he has given up reading, or is it a clue that he’s joking?

It brings up an important point either way.  Pierre Bayard argues in How to Talk about Books You Haven’t Read that it is better not to read a particular book than to read it, and that the person who doesn’t read it is actually likely to know more about it.  I’m pretty darn sure he’s joking here.  Lynne Sharon Schwartz, in Ruined by Reading, discusses the possibility that her lifetime habit of excessive reading may be a spiritual failing, and considers giving it up.  She’s not joking, though she doesn’t shut the door on her habit, either.

So what do you think, dear readers?  Is it better to have read and be lost than never to have read at all?  Does reading make you happy or unhappy?  Does it depend in any way on what you read?



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  1. Better to have read. Makes me very happy, to be reading. And I don’t care a whit about American Idol, either. That commentator was probably just not a reader at heart.

  2. I’ll always stick with this answer: better to have read. I hope that the quote is tongue-and-cheek. Maybe it’s a secret desire to feel superior, but I don’t think so – I really do think reading enhances life.

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