Sometimes I think about the scene in The Unbearable Lightness of Being where Tereza first sees Tomas. He is carrying a book, so she automatically feels a kinship with him because she believes people who read have an immediate connection. Tomas, if I recall, thinks she is a little naive.
When I read this (fifteen!) years ago, my feelings aligned more with Tomas, but I’ve come to envy Tereza. As a rule, I much prefer the company of people who read to those who don’t, but I’ve never been able build an image of myself around the idea of books themselves. Many people do, however. They are book people.
You know what book people like? Books!
People read for different reasons. Some just like to know stuff. Within fiction, readers are attracted to different types of stories than you. Even when someone likes the same books as you do, eventually you realize the same book can became quite a different object in another pair of hands. Your experience of a book can be quiet unalike someone else’s.
I read a bit. I haven’t read as broadly as I would like, but more than a lot of people, who sometimes mistake me for an obscurist. I read a fair number of those enormous books by recluse writers meant to be read by other recluses. I’ve written a few books. Let’s say four. (Counting unpublished works can get funny.)
I don’t think of myself as a book person. Does that make sense? I just don’t.
When I am not reading or writing, I look at a lot of book covers. Lately, sometimes just the layout of books. Where the publisher put the numbers and the chapter titles. What’s on the copyright page.
People who froth over the smell of books are incomprehensible to me. Fresh tomatoes smell heavenly. Carrots, surprisingly, too. You can keep your book scent. The new ones don’t smell like anything much, and the old ones smell of dust and mold. Mold! Pass. Sure, a book feels nice in the hand, but my electronic reader weighs three eighths of a pound, it holds a whole library, and I only have to charge it every week or two. It’s not just the tree we save, think about shipping and storage. Inventory. It’s to reading what penicillin was to medicine.
Books are my favorite thing to talk about. I will read a book I’ve no interest in reading just to talk about it with people who have. I like to listen to their opinions about them, even (or maybe especially) when I think they are a bit off target, so long as they are civil about expressing themselves. Remember in Shadow of the Vampire when Willem Defoe as Count Orlak talks about Bram Stoker’s novel? I wish the whole world told me stuff like that about books.
What’s a book person? Is that like an air or water person? A walking around on their hind legs person? Getting books from the library is preferable to buying them, not only because it’s economical, but then you don’t have to have them in your house. I can’t stand living with clutter. Reference books are practical to have on-hand, but there are maybe ten volumes total that I would keep for sentimental value. Because I shared them once with people who are no longer with me. Not because I like the cover or something.
I enjoy recreational content editing. Give me some fiction that doesn’t quite work, I like to think about how the pieces fit together, what is making them grind on each other, or how they are fail to connect to move the whole machine forward.
The best days I have are the ones where I spend the afternoon in a coffee shop rewriting the same paragraph for three hours.
“Book” sounds like the noise a chicken makes. Book book buh-book!
Listen, Will, why do you always have to make everything so complicated? Why can’t you just like the things you like, like a normal person?
Well, what would be the fun of knowing the answer to a question like that?
In the first story I ever published, the main character smashes a cockroach to death with The Unbearable Lightness of Being. My twenty-something year old self must have thought it was pretty funny.
It’s kinda funny, I think.