Still have some gift shopping to take care of as the shopping minutes rapidly dwindle down to zero-hour? If so, you might be finding yourself in the position described in an amusing New York Times article today in which the author describes books as "the refuge of the desperate." When in doubt, and when out of time, give a book.
Such gifts carry with them a whiff of self-congratulation, as well as flattery. They say: I’m smart, and I think you are, too....
Part of this kind of book buying, of course, is good intentions. “You imagine yourself as being better read than you are, and you especially imagine that in the future you’re going to be better read than you are,” said Michael Kinsley, a columnist for Time magazine. “You think over Christmas things will slow down and I will have all this time to do the reading I didn’t have time to do during the year. There are half a dozen delusions like that that the book industry thrives on.”I really like the concept of the "G.U.B.'s" mentioned in the article: "Great Unread Books" that manage to maintain such a reputation that they stay on best seller lists forever and are mentioned in magazine and newspaper articles for months and months. The only problem with them is that no one actually bothers to read them because they are either so boring or so densely written that no one wants to make the effort required to decipher the author's meaning.
Of course, we could all come up with the prime examples mentioned in this Times article: Stephen Hawking's "Brief History of Time" and Salmon Rushdie's "Satanic Verses." Those must be near the top of the all-time G.U.B. list. I admit to owning copies of both of them, and have had them for years without finishing either of them. But they look really nice on my bookshelves and they are classic "G.U.B's," after all.
Bookstore managers must really love the Christmas Season since the "G.U.B.'s" really fly off the shelves this time of year.
Check the link for the rest of the article. This one is fun.