Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sorry Books, We're Pulling Your Nerd Card

Before I start today's extensive complaint let us first do away with one or more myths about books. The act of : a) purchasing a book or (b) holding the aforementioned purchased book does not make the information within the book magically go into your brain. Secondly, by telling your friends that you are going to: a) read a book or (b) that you have read a book it does not imply that you are any more intellectually capable, soulful or artistic than you were before reading the book. Unless of course the book that you just read was "How to appear more intellectually capable, soulful and artistic."

Originally books were collections of information compiled so that they be passed down from generation to generation. That information was used and revised as new information came to light. Eventually humans developed the ability and desire to express themselves in other ways and they found out that they could do that in word form. Writing at that time evolved from a way to relay information and transformed into what would come to be known as art. Individuals who were able to craft imagery and emotion in a superior way to other people became known as writers. These "writers" would create strings of words to captivate and inspire other people to live their dreams, mentally evolve or emotionally change something within themselves. These writers created the potential for other people to think.

It would naturally follow then that people whose desire it was to be educated would seek out books. They would seek out books that spoke to their area of interest written by scholars who had a level of expertise higher than their own. Also, books written in the past were expensive to write and reproduce for others to read. As such, there was a general unspoken rule that only books of quality would be produced for mass consumption. People who owned and read books then generally had an interest in knowledge and a thirst for understanding.

Within my life I have witnessed the progression of books from tool of experience and inspiration to tool of recreation and affectation. When I was a child reading a book was a bad thing. Reading suggested that you had knowledge, sought knowledge or at the very least chose to associate yourself with knowledgeable things. As a way for stupid people to compensate for their stupidity they would routinely label someone in possession of a book as a nerd or a dork. As you should know by now, the act of thinking is uncool and as such should be ridiculed. Then one day something happened that would change the face of bookdom forever.

That something was when a Hollywood business type realized that there was an untapped market and that untapped market was books. In a time of television and instant gratification books remained to be challenging things. They were challenging because they required the reader to give of themselves and put time into reading and understanding the message within a book. Even worse, rarely if ever did a book explain something with blunt and direct language. What this meant is that the reader would have to infer meaning. If there is one thing that cool and stupid people don't like to do it is infer. Because of this, books were able to remain somewhat untainted while the rest of the world continued moving forward.

Unfortunately, someone eventually cracked the code. The hole in the dyke was small at first, only a few celebrity autobiographies written by ghostwriters slipped through. But then the walls came crashing down. A deluge of self help books alerted an unaware audience that many of their common everyday problems were unique and important. Even better, for the low-low price of $19.99 these problems could be solved through an easy to follow five step process. The direct language and ease of use of books like "How To Use A Computer Keyboard For Dummies" got people enthusiastic about reading. The simplistic nature of what they were reading made them feel intelligent, it didn't matter that they were reading list upon list of basic instructions and common sense toward living.

Eventually people starting writing fantasy books intended for children and adults started reading them. These adults convinced themselves that the kids books somehow transcended the children's genre and were in fact very adult. In their minds, humans were not devolving by consuming books that were straightforward and easy to digest. In fact, they decided that writing was evolving because the level of children's literature had been elevated to new heights. Further, as more and more people came out of the closet and admitted to liking a series of children's books the more people became interested in reading them. Much like their children who had not done a lot of reading in their lives, adults got a positive charge out of finishing a book.

What followed next was that celebrities did away with their ghostwriters. No longer did they have to feel ashamed by their lack of diction and grammar. If other people could write stream of conscious first person narrative why couldn't they? Writing didn't have to be meaningful OR technically proficient. All that a person needed to do in order to be considered a writer was...write. This was great news for Hilary Duff who I am certain is at this moment penning her second fiction novel.

So what does this all mean? As I said in an earlier essay, computers were for a time the refuge of the freaks and nutters. Yet, with the invention of Facebook/text messaging the world made it easy for cool and dumb people to make use of the internet and technology. In this same way books have "evolved" to welcome the creative inspiration of cool and dumb people. Books have done away with the stigma associated with them, that being that they are filled with useful information and are difficult to understand. Better still books have maintained their pretentious affectation so you can still talk loudly in a crowded coffee shop about the existential implications of Chelsea Handler's latest musing on life.


  1. In homage to the second pic in the post, "So it goes..."

  2. "The direct language and ease of use of books like "How To Use A Computer Keyboard For Dummies" got people enthusiastic about reading."

    Ever read The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul?

    I think the only reason the For Dummies books sell is because no one reads them. (or even intends to)

  3. Brilliant post! That reminds me - has anyone read Snooki's book yet?

  4. In protest and to protect my nerd status, I no longer read books. Only blog posts from snarky, clever people from now on.

  5. Your post made me cry.

    That means that it was well written and sadly, SO FUCKING TRUE.

  6. I do read the dummy books and I like them, so there...

    good post :)

    oh yeah, I also like children books and want to write some with lots of pictures.

  7. I felt like there was more to this post than posted... did you leave off some more? I'd read on.

    Thanks for not being stupid,
    Book reader