Baroja joke about unread readers

And don’t give me any of that “rereading” shite, you illiterate swine.

Caversham near Reading, with Alps, recently melted.

Caversham near Reading, with Alps, recently melted. Image: Zentralbibliothek Zürich.

Someone told me the other day that sales of e-books are levelling off, which doesn’t surprise me at all. Most people don’t acquire books in order to read them; you will impress no one by concealing the complete works of Jünger in a black box labelled “Kindle” – they’ll just think you’re tossing your way through 50 shades of MILF. A gag from Pío Baroja’s Desde la última vuelta del camino:

Man walks into a public library and says to the librarian:
— I want a good, fat book.
— Can you tell me the title?
— I’m not interested in the title.
— OK, but tell me what you want the book to be about.
— I don’t care.
— So why do you want it?
— To sit on.

It’s a cliché now that online news services will never make any money, because people bought newspapers for the paper, not the news.

Italo Calvino describes another form of pseudism which prejudiced me hopelessly against a certain sombrero lingüístico:

The classics are those books about which you usually hear people saying: ‘I’m rereading…’, never ‘I’m reading…’

At least this is the case with those people whom one presumes are ‘well read‘; it does not apply to the young, since they are at an age when their contact with the world, and with the classics which are part of that world, is important precisely because it is their first such contact.

The iterative prefix ‘re-’ in front of the verb ‘read’ can represent a small act of hypocrisy on the part of people ashamed to admit they have not read a famous book. To reassure them, all one need do is to point out that however wide-ranging any person’s formative reading may be, there will always be an enormous number of fundamental works that one has not read.

I read Miffy the other day. It was wonderful, but there’s a faint hint of old rope about the later ones, and I felt a sense of déjà vu.

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