A journalist shares his obsession with books, swinging his machete through the fields of literature.
A national columnist and prolific writer, Queenan (Closing Time: A Memoir, 2009) is crazy about books—literally. Even other bibliophiles will likely consider his reading habits to be on the lunatic fringe: “I cannot remember a single time when I was reading fewer than fifteen books…I am talking about books I am actively reading, books that are right there on my nightstand and are not leaving until I’m done with them. Right now, the number is thirty-two.” The author admits that this is “madness.” Such obsession makes him a promiscuous reader, but also a faithful one, devouring everything he can find from an author he discovers, no matter how obscure or prolific. Since he’s sometimes classified as a humorist, and since much of his humor lies in his outrageous assertions, it’s hard to tell how seriously to take his dismissal of Middlemarch, Ulysses and all of Thomas Hardy, though plainly he takes books and reading very seriously indeed. Yet he doesn’t much care for independent bookstores (“often staffed by condescending prigs who do not approve of people like me. The only writers they like are dead or exotic or Paul Auster”), or book critics (“mostly servile muttonheads, lacking the nerve to call out famous authors for their daft plots and slovenly prose), or book clubs (“I would rather have my eyelids gnawed on by famished gerbils than join a book club”). Queenan also resists the temptation of most book lovers to buy a lot of books, since he figures he won’t live long enough to read (or re-read) the ones he’s vowed to finish before he dies. Most will agree that “reading is intensely personal,” and the author splatters his personality over every page.
An amusing homage to reading that contains something to offend even (especially?) the most ardent book lover.