Author: Joe Queenan
Author: Joe Queenan
I am convinced that after you read Joe Queenan's recent tome, One For The Books you will never again look at a printed book in the same light. Queenan describes himself as a “maniacal reader” and although his reading life has provided him with quite a thrill, he is willing to concede that people such as himself are “as mad as hatters.”
Unfortunately, as Queenan points out, every life, even the best ones, end in sadness. Friends and family we adore pass on and the voices we love to hear are forever silenced. However, books on the other hand, hold out hope that things may end otherwise such as the wicked will be over-thrown, and the righteous shall prosper. And “as long as there are beautiful books waiting for us out there, there is still a chance that we can turn the ship around and find a safe harbor.” Quoting Faulkner, he further reminds us that we shall not only survive; we shall prevail. There is still hope that we shall all live happily ever after.
Queenan takes us on quite a journey as he holds nothing back when it comes to his relationship with books and everything connected to them. For example, his take on libraries is quite amusing, which he describes as a place filled with horrible books that he is never going to read and exist primarily to divert and service cheapskates. The next time you visit a library remember, that according to him, borrowers are nothing more than stingy scabs who don't put money into the pockets of authors. And if that is not insulting enough, he further believes that most people read drivel, which is their prerogative. As he states, the case can be made that it is better to read drivel than to read nothing, on the theory that people will eventually tire of garbage and move on to something more meaty, like trash.
As for books written by journalists, Queenan informs us that the opening two chapters are generally good, the next several are padded, then towards the end they regather a bit of momentum. The reason for this kind of an organization is that their editors encourage writers to front-load the merchandise, jamming the most interesting material at the beginning, as these will be the chapters that will be read.
In answer to those reviewers like myself that can't bring themselves to chuck away a book even though we don't enjoy the read, Queenan quotes one of his best friends who told him that the turning point for her is “when she suddenly, unexpectedly stumbles upon a passage so awful or disgusting or immoral that it would make it a crime to continue holding the book in her hands.”
Considerable ink is devoted to bookstores and Queenan's hilarious experiences with them, however, as he mentions, sadly their days are numbered giving rise to the Internet store as Amazon and others. He believes it is plebeian to order books online and describes why he hates it.
Not to be left out are critics whom Queenan describes as “muttonheads, lacking the nerve to call out famous authors for their daft plots and slovenly prose.” Insofar as blurbs are concerned, they can no longer be trusted as they are usually concocted by “liars and sycophants to advance their careers as bozos and sluts.”
Queenan's humorous reflections provides us with a fascinating overview of what books and everything related to them have meant to him throughout his many years as a prolific reader. Readers may not agree with all of his musings, however, they do provide a great deal of food for thought and even material for your next bibliophile party.
Joe Queenan writes the Moving Targets column for The Wall Street Journal. He has written for Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, Spy, Forbes, Playboy, Barron’s, Golf Digest, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and The New Republic, and contributes to The New York Times and The Guardian. He has appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman¸ Good Morning America, Today, and The Daily Show. His books include The New York Times bestseller and Notable Book Closing Time: A Memoir.
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