Get That Book Away From Little Johnny!

Walking across the parking lot of the County Regional Library, a rare public facility lying in a pocket of private affluence, I was struck by the preponderance of low-end, unkempt and aging cars. Considering the generally seedy and shabby appearance of most of the library’s adult denizens, my observation shouldn’t have been surprising. An exception has to be made for the students sentenced to hard labor in the reference section, mining the stacks for their term papers.

My provisional correlation of cheap cars, a down-market clientele and the public library is that people with dough tend to go to Borders or Barnes and Noble and buy the books they want. Or better yet, order them from Amazon. Secondly, and more interesting to me, is the idea that among those who value the pursuit and acquisition of money, the activity of reading, particularly for pleasure would appear to be considered a wasteful, non-productive use of time. An exception would be, though not necessarily, those reading materials devoted to the acquisition and preservation of money.

An essay some years ago in the Sunday Times Book Review section, questioned the seemingly self-evident benefits of reading promoted so assiduously by the bookish establishment. Reading, the essay argued, other than for the purposes of practical application, is fundamentally a vice, period. We do it, as with our every indulgence, solely for the pleasure it gives us. Other than the pragmatic reading done to gain usable information, the process serves no instrumental purpose but pleasure. Compulsive readers, and I confess to the tag, are more or less junkies to the near masturbatory rewards that accrue to self-stimulations of the mind.

Why would people bent upon, or giving high priority to, worldly success, drive their new Beemers and Caddies to a library parking lot? Why would they devote or divert their most valuable of assets, their time, to an activity that seemingly has no direct application to, or makes no evident contribution to successfully getting on in the world? Reading may expand your mind, but relative to your net worth statement, there’s probably not much of a percentage in it. Based on everything above. I would modestly propose that if your ambitions for your offspring include McMansions and Mercedes’, do not encourage them to swallow the conventional wisdom of the professional educators on the benefits of getting hooked on books. Functional literacy? Great! A lifelong love of reading? God no!

If you yourself are already one of us, that is a book person, reflect for a few seconds the next time that you curl up with the new Banneville or a favorite Sontag. Ask yourself about the make, MSRP and model year of the car or cars in your family. How about the market value of your home, your investment portfolio or that second home on the beach or in Aspen? Or not? Oh well, there are compensations. You probably do quite well when Jeopardy comes on the TV.

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