A couple days ago, on this selfsame site, the topic of books as objects came up. I'd expressed my dislike for the cover design of the American edition of Richard Dawkins' latest tome. It's this sort of blank, reflective silver dealie. Like a mirror. The message, I guess, is that you need to look at yourself and ask, "Am I a religious fanatic? Could I be more like the educated British upper middle-class?" The unexamined life is, after all, not likely to plop down nearly $30 bucks for a book. My chief objection, however, was not thematic. I didn't think, from a marketing standpoint, it was a good move. Mainly, the silvered surface shows ever bump, nick, and scrape, getting the crap beat out of it pretty quickly. Some reader took issue with my desire for an un-abused book. Notably, our much beloved komet who opined:
"nothing says 'I'm an aliterate sod who nevertheless chooses to maintain a veneer of literacy' than a bookcase (not 'display case') of shiny new books that look like they've never been read. Anyone who has a copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover that doesn't fall open to a specific page is a philistine."
[NB: He included some footnotes and stuff here. I took them out. Mainly so I could write "NB" in my diary. 'Cause I enjoy that sort of thing.]
At the time, I objected. We traded "witticisms" about the issue until it bored both of us and we let the thing drop.
But, I still can't get it out of my head. I've been thinking that, instead of using the disagreement as an excuse for comment sparring, I should have done what all reasonable adults do when they find themselves disagreeing: find a way to monetize the matter.
So, here's my idea . . .
[Interior: Wood-paneled office, CRwM stands next to lab-coated young man in glasses. Both are looking at pages in a thick, hardcover book that CRwM is holding. CRwM begins talking as he closes the book and hands it back to the young man in the lab coat.]
CRwM: " . . . and I thought it was an excellent Swedenborg reference. But I talked to Chet, in customer service, and you know what he said. He said it wasn't."
[Both CRwM and the young man turn towards the camera.]
CRwM: "Oh, hello. I'm CRwM. You're just in time to learn about an exciting new development in literary technology. A famous philosopher once said that a room without a full bookshelf in is like a dog with only three-legs, and no nose, and, perhaps, only one eye. And even that would be located in some horribly unpleasant wholly inappropriate place on the dog's body. This is, of course, utter crap. Many of the smartest, richest, and most important people who ever lived were illiterate. Did you know the twelveteenth president of the United States, Chester T. Taylor was illiterate? As were baseball superstar Joe DiMaggio and famed scientist and miniature golf enthusiast Albert Einstein. How about scientist and inventor Buckminster Fuller and poet Robert Frost? Both functionally illiterate!"
[Young man inches uncomfortably sideways through dialog until he's off screen.]
CRwM: "Despite the fact that reading has never done anybody any good, refusing to play the publishing industry's little game is frowned upon in polite society. Like physical exercise, parenthood, and the practice of philosophy, reading still benefits from the widespread public delusion that it is, in and of itself, a good thing. But who has time to read? We're swinging, can do, modern, switched on cats and kittens. We can't spend all our time pondering the jibber jabber of others. What we need is a way to look like we've read, without actually having to bother ourselves with the act. Now this dilemma, which comedienne Phyllis Diller has dubbed the burning issue of our times, has a solution."
[External shot. CRwM stands next to a large sign placed near the entrance of half-full parking lot of a brutally personality-free corporate park in anywhere suburban America. The name on the sign says OPGD Technology Services.]
CRwM: "Here at GDW Service Technologies, we do specialize in providing the modern, non-reading public with professionally pre-distressed books. Now you can have all the benefits of being well-read, without all the annoying reading. Here at GDW we'll dog ear your pages, provide appropriate cover and just jacket abuse, leave meaningful discolorations and stains. We will even leave extensive annotations including underlines, highlighting, and margin commentary. You can choose from any of our popular annotation styles:"
[FX: White list scrolling up a vibrant blue background.]
The Angry Liberal
The Well-Read, but Still Firmly Reality-Based Average Joe
The Young, Serious Poet
The Angry Conservative
The College Undergrad
The Moral Philosopher
The Angry Independent Voter
[Interior Shot: CRwM, back in the office, seated behind a desk. Bookshelves on the wall behind him.]
CRwM: "You'll never have to read again. But don't take my word for it. Let's hear some testimonials."
"Call me 'preparedness girl.' Because of my family situation over the last years I have become, if not obsessed with preparing for problems and disasters, then at least highly concerned. And over the last years I have been forced to deal with more than my share of power failures. So when I saw this item advertised on television I decided that if it did half of what it promised it'd still be a good thing to have in the house. As it turns out, it does everything as promised." M. J. Walters of Chicago, IL
"I love this product! I was so sick of shaving that I decided to give this a try. I have a low pain tolorance and I have to say that it did hurt ALOT the first 2 times. (I admit I had a glass or two of wine before doing it the second time lol) but after that the hair is much finer and since it grows back at different speeds its not as concetraited in one area...which is why it hurts. I use this all the time now. My legs are soooo smooth. I usually do this once a week while watching tv. It actually lasts for 3/4 weeks or so however since hair grows back at different speeds and depending upon how much of the hair was taken out by the root or if it just broke off I like to use it weekly. It doesnt hurt at all now...although I read someone used this on their underarms. I tried it and will NEVER do that again...that was painful!!! the bikini line is less painful than that. This product works great and I'll never go back to shaving!!!" Pamela Lars of Fairfax, VA.
CRwM: "Join the several tens of satisfied customers. Order today. And send money. Lots of money. Whatever you've got will be fine."
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