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R.I.U. (Down With Books)

August 5th, 2005 | File Under Nate | 3 comments

I’m writing this to go on the record with my campaign for postliteracy. I keep having to explain it again and again to people; perhaps they need it written down — I for one can process the spoken word and remember it, but that’s me.

Here it is in a nutshell: I don’t read books.

I don’t like reading books, I don’t want to do it anymore, and I’m adult so I don’t have to. I quit reading books just about one year ago, and I have to say: it’s been great. Better than great. I don’t miss them at all.

Some people (stuffy, English-literature-types mostly — you know the kind) seem to have a problem with this decision. It bothers them. It doesn’t affect them one iota, but it bothers them. I hear everything from disbelief to fear to shock to anger whenever it comes up. That’s puzzling in and of itself, particularly since the more stuffy the person the more likely they are to have a chip on their shoulder about how they don’t watch television.

Of course, when you boil it down, feeling better about yourself because you don’t watch television is a pretty shallow illusion of self-righteousness. Most of us know that. But what’s more troubling is the underlying notion some otherwise normal people hold that some forms of media are inherently better than others.

This is absurd both in general and in specific cases. To suggest that one medium is always better than another is easily disproven, and to suggest that it is “usually” better is empty.

Having had this discussion more than once, after a few coutnerexamples what you’ll end up with from the book-hugging crowd is one of two things, either “I usually like books better than I usually like television” — which is fine with me as long as you agree to be fine with the opposite in exchange — or some sort of vague, historical argument that hinges on how many more “great” books there are (you know, “how can you say you don’t like Huckleberry Finn???”) and how long people have been writing them.

Now there’s a problem: if books are better than more recent media simply because of the timeframe in which they were invented, then books and other written media are easily trumped by the spoken word. I.E., if reading books > watching TV, then hearing sermons > reading books and hearing stand-up comedy > reading books. And wait: what about watching stand-up comedy on TV?

Clearly illogical. Proudly I say, “Books: who needs em? Not me!”

So please, don’t recommend books to me, and though I am happy to hear about your summer reading list, I’m not going to pick up anything on it.