There is a peculiar type of literary snob which I’ll call the tome kvetcher: generally, a miserable individual so utterly stingy about books that they have almost completely lost the capacity to enjoy them. Despite having a case stocked with 600 unread books, the tome kvetcher will never able to “find a book to read.” And if we take this grievance at face value, it is as preposterous as suggesting that a deep sea fish will never be able to find an oxygen molecule to take in through its gills. For even if we apply Sturgeon’s law, 600 unread books turns up 60 very good titles. And this is assuming that the tome kvetcher, who has already applied standards that are probably more elitist and ridiculous than the average literary connoisseur, has obtained or purchased all of the books himself!
Bad enough that the tome kvetcher fails to live dangerously and/or actively, simply pulling a random book from the shelf and seeing if it rocks his world, but the tome kvetcher often takes out this batty neurosis on peers (strangely similar to how trust fund kids complain about how “bored” they are, despite the fact that their parents have purchased every known possession and then some for them and have spent countless dollars on psychotherapy and antidepressants and acupuncture and various editions of the Ungame) and expects them to empathize with this horrible malady. For the tome kvetcher, this apparent inability to take the plunge, something that most well-adjusted readers seem to manage on a regular basis without bitching about it, is an existence tantamount to starving in Ethiopia. One often hears a tome kvetcher moaning loudly in a bookstore, often disrupting those who are truly excited to be surrounded by so many fabulous books, and one ponders calling the men in white suits.
Maybe my own thoughts on tome kvetchers are heavily influenced by the considerable galley guilt that has kicked in and because I am touched by the fact that so many nice people send me books while also saddened that I cannot possibly read them all and that I must purge (and possibly because I was raised polite and am, in general, a veritable ball of enthusiasm), but by what right and for what purpose do these tome kvetchers exist? Do you mean to tell me that of all the great books published through the past few centuries that you cannot find even one to satisfy you or give you pleasure, wisdom or joy? Do you mean to suggest that you are wasting hours of your life shifting books around just to find one that will fit your finicky standards, which will of course change later because your tastes are about as dependable as driving a Kia cross-country?
Well, if that’s the kind of gloomy life you lead, then why the hell are you reading in the first place?
© 2006, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.