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Gaudy Theories on Books Lost and Gained, Part I

Book people are odd specimens.

Library of Congress

Human beings are odd in and of themselves; then there are literate human beings, who promptly set about to convert the illiterate; and then there are book people.

Book people confuse the order of reading. Instead of reading books to find examples of reality, they look to reality for examples of what they find in books. Book people find reality rather interesting to explore in daylight, but at close of day return to ink-lined walls and beds carved in words. Book people agree with Graham Greene, who wrote:

 “One’s life is more formed, I sometimes think, by books than by human beings:  it is out of books one learns about love and pain second hand. Even if we have the happy chance to fall in love, it is because we have been conditioned by what we have read, and if I had never known love at all, perhaps it was because my father’s library had not contained the right books.”  – Travels with My Aunt

 Given this peculiar process, it’s an aberration when people have changed the way we see books rather than books changing how we see people. The Gaudy editors will be looking at these aberrations in a sporadic series called Gaudy Theories on Books Lost and Gained.

Last month I gained The Hunger Games.

I don’t live under a rock. I’d heard about the books. I knew there was a movie coming out this year, and had watched the trailer once or twice in an off-hand sort of way. I assumed I’d read Suzanne Collins, but there was no ticking bomb on Panem. Right?

Wrong. This spring my sister sat down on our couch at 5pm after a long day of sitting at school and began reading The Hunger Games. She looked up a little while later and asked my father what time it was. “10.30,” he said. Our growing teenage athlete had read through dinner. Then my best friend was bitten. All through April and May I heard: “Have you read it yet? How about now? READ THE HUNGER GAMES! I WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT! Let’s talk about Peeta.” This was the woman who gets cranky if she sits still too long, prefers developing film to watching it and doesn’t care about Harry Potter. So I read them, in the now-token four or five days that it takes to devour The Hunger Games and be devoured in turn.

I retain a book person’s snobbery about bestsellers (“snobbery” or “traditional evaluation theory dependent on the restrictive imaginary Western Canon,” take your pick.) I mean, if everyone’s reading it, then there’s probably something there; but how smart can everyone be? Yet my sister and my best friend, my cousin and every other non-book-person who fell in love with The Hunger Games changed the way I saw the series. I saw it less as a fad, more like a miracle.

Most of the time book people have a monopoly on books, evaluating and classifying and purchasing them, yet this means that the book world is a trifle lonely. We admire our ink-lined walls and lie in our word-carved beds by ourselves. Good books like The Hunger Games, and others that draw in non-readers, are miracles for book people and other people alike because they grant a tourist visa between the worlds.  – Gabrielle 

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This entry was posted on June 23, 2012 by .

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