There was a volunteer at the Book Fair, once upon a time, who felt that reading teachers wasted a lot of time. “They spend so much effort trying to find books the students will enjoy reading,” she told me. “Children need to be taught to read, not how to have fun. They should learn to use a tool whether they like it or not.”
I disagree now and again with volunteers, but I don’t recall ever disagreeing quite so much. People who have heard the story from me have tended to side with me on this one, though there are one or two curmudgeons who insist, “They should at least just read things they enjoy on their own time” (i.e. not the time paid for with the tax money of the curmudgeons.)
So I’m not sure why the right to read any old thing for enjoyment can’t be extended to grown-ups. So many of my books, I am told, are useless, and therefore should not be put up for sale.
“I cannot believe you’re trying to get money for this obsolete book on interior design.”
“These diet books have all been discredited: why do you even put them out?”
“People stopped reading this author after his private life went public.”
“This novel went out of fashion five minutes after the movie was released.”
It actually started at the very outset of the Book Fair, when a member of our pioneer crew argued that we shouldn’t bother to put out books by Pearl Buck.
“She won the Nobel Prize for Literature,” I whined.
“Yes, but the Nobel Committee felt just awful about it afterward,” I was told. “Anyway, nobody reads her any more. Her point of view is obsolete.”
I suppose there are books out there with an expiration date. (That book I mentioned earlier this year, which had a box of chocolates attached to it, should have had one.) But novels? Points of view? Even then, there are historians who’d like to read old books, just to study what people thought once upon a time.
But there: I’ve walked into my own trap. I was trying to prove that an obsolete book can be useful. MUST a book be useful for someone to buy it at a certain library in July?
I have written of the sad case of the Exclaiming Customer, who was buying paperback romances and exclaiming loudly to the room in general, “These are trash! I’m buying them for a friend! I would never read such time-wasting garbage! Except for the ones with nurses in them, because you can learn important medical information!” She was feeling the pressure of society, which disapproves of adults reading books which are not obviously for self-improvement.
Some people try to have it both ways, announcing that paperback romances ARE useful, as the narratives force the mind to see life from a different perspective, and words on a page make the mind work in a way images on the screen donate. So that copy of “Fifty Shades of Grey” is actually doing you a lot of good. Even if everyone else has already read it. Even if you’re buying that copy because YOU have already read it so many times your copy fell apart. Even if….
See Jane. See Jane read. See Jane whop somebody with her book for telling her she should be reading something good for her instead.