Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Delusional reading

It's not necessary to read it immediately. Just having it on the shelf, the biblioholic is deluded into thinking, may help one grow intellectually.
Tom Raabe, Biblioholism: The Literary Addiction

I am not so certain this kind of thinking is limited to those of us who love books and crave more and more of them. Sports fans seem to believe that just wearing a jersey to a game makes them part of the team. Many students are convinced that just taking their homework home with them means it's as good as done. Some people think that owning an apron and a new set of pans makes them chefs or having a good set of tools makes them carpenters. Such illusions, it seems to me, are not that unusual.

Yet book lovers are certainly not immune to this delusional thinking. If I am honest with myself, I must confess I own books, many books, I will probably never read, but I believe deep down that having them on my shelves somehow makes me smarter. Books like Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America and St. Augustine's City of God certainly fit into this category. I have owned these books for decades without ever getting close to actually reading them. Most likely I never will read them. I feel better having them around anyway.

I have numerous other books that seem intellectually intimidating, dull or just massive, but at least I can look at them occasionally and feel more intelligent. Among these are The Slave Trade by Hugh Thomas (more than 800 pages long), Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fischer (900 pages about "four British folkways in America), Ruby V. Redinger's biography George Eliot: The Emergent Self and Witold Rybczynski's Looking Around: A Journey Through Architecture.

I read Lolita for a college class and again this year, so I know Vladimir Nabokov to have been a gifted writer. Even so I am put off by his other novels such as Pale Fire, Look at the Harlequins! and King, Queen, Knave. I usually pick up a murder mystery instead, preferring to get my Nabokov through some kind of osmosis.

No comments:

Post a Comment