On Books, Book People, and stuff like that.

Michael of the Blowhardic Duo wrote a nifty post that contrasts “book people” with “movie people”. It’s quite a post; by all means, read the whole thing. I’m not sure that his overall distinction holds — I’ve known devotees of nearly every art who insist on segregating “art” from “trash”, and I’ve known many who don’t. But generally speaking, I am of like mind: I tend to find people who pontificate on what’s art and what’s trash interesting people with whom to consult on specific matters, but in general, they’re simply not much fun to talk to. (Which is not to even bring up my increasing suspicion that not only is the line between “art” and “trash” a moving target, but that line might not exist at all.)

Even better than all the discussion in the main body of the post (which is a really good post — did I mention that?) is the list of “book confessions” Michael makes toward the end. Here are some of mine. I’m not sure if these are “guilty confessions” or not — I’ve never felt much guilt about my reading habits, except for my constant feeling that I’m still a handful of books away from being able to consider myself “well-read”.

:: I, too, always have a number of books going at any one time, even above what I list in my “current reading” section of the sidebar. And if I find something short and fascinating, I’m likely to completely stop reading the others while I toss the “fascinating” book off in a white-heat of reading.

:: I read in spurts. I’ll go through weeks when I read heavily, and then I’ll slack off. I might read two novels in a week, and then take two weeks to read a single novel.

:: I have joined book clubs in the past, and will likely do so again. When I’ve been in book clubs, I’ve ended up with all manner of books that I never even had any intention of buying, much less reading. Some of these I’ve read; some I put up on Ebay.

:: I’ve always enjoyed libraries, but only in the last couple of years have I realized how essential and wonderful a resource they are. The ability to simply get a book out of the library has greatly shaped my book-buying tendencies; I find myself putting a lot more thought into what I buy than “Hey, I want to read that.”

:: I love big picture books, pretty much on any subject, and I almost always have one or two I’ve checked out of the library on hand.

:: I like to borrow books from the library that are pretty old and likely haven’t been read in many years, sometimes not even to read them myself, but in the hope that by checking it out I delay that book’s inevitable removal from the collection due to lack of use.

:: I don’t have any particular view on how long novels should be. Some books should be 900 pages; others should only be 150 pages. Roger Ebert might as well have been referring to books when he wrote: “A good movie is never too long, but a bad movie is never short enough.”

:: I love to read cookbooks, and the less commentary about the food a cookbook provides, the less likely I am to cook out of it. And my favorite cookbooks, for actual cooking, tend to be Emeril Lagasse’s and Jeff Smith’s (the Frugal Gourmet).

:: I’ve always had a fascination with “kookery”: UFOs, conspiracy theories, fringe science, theories of lost technological civilizations on earth, et cetera. My interest in this stuff predates The X-Files by over a dozen years, all the way back to third grade. I have a small library of books dealing with this stuff, by authors like Jim Keith, Graham Hancock, Bob Frissell, and others. One such book in my collection, Behold a Pale Horse by William Cooper (whom I have just now learned was killed in some kind of shootout with law enforcement in 2001) includes the complete text of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

No, I do not believe any of this stuff, but I enjoy reading about it. Skepticism, it seems to me, is strengthened by exposure to kookery (as long as one’s skepticism is healthy to begin with).

:: I find sexual content in books boring.

:: I really enjoy Nick Bantock‘s work.

:: I enjoy comics stores, but I wish they wouldn’t be so tiny, and I wish they’d have better lighting, and I wish they wouldn’t plaster so many posters and decals and whatnot on their storefront windows that it’s nearly impossible to see inside. I don’t know how my favorite comics store in Buffalo survives, because it’s not in walking distance of anything.

:: The only magazine subscription I have right now is WIRED, although I do plan to subscribe to more once I’m working again. I enjoy WIRED mainly because sometimes I need a good hit of optimism, and that magazine packs it, big-time. Even when I’m pretty sure they’re totally full of crap.

:: I have never gotten over my anger at my tenth-grade English teacher, the one who made us read Ordinary People while the other classes were reading Huck Finn.

:: Sometimes I read for story, other times I read for language. I deem a great book to be one that has both.

:: Finally, I’ve generally stopped being concerned with the fact that what I consider to be “great language” doesn’t seem to match up with what other people tell me is “great language”.

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