This is a blurb from the Wall Street Journal’s most recent Saturday essay, which is awesome and you should totally read in full. Author Joe Queenan’s forthcoming One for the Books, from which this essay is excerpted, comes out on Thursday.
“A case can be made that people who read a preposterous number of books are not playing with a full deck. I prefer to think of us as dissatisfied customers. If you have read 6,000 books in your lifetime, or even 600, it’s probably because at some level you find ‘reality’ a bit of a disappointment. People in the 19th century fell in love with Ivanhoe and The Count of Monte Cristo because they loathed the age they were living through. Women in our own era read Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre and even The Bridges of Madison County—a dimwit, hayseed reworking of Madame Bovary—because they imagine how much happier they would be if their husbands did not spend quite so much time with their drunken, illiterate golf buddies down at Myrtle Beach. A blind bigamist nobleman with a ruined castle and an insane, incinerated first wife beats those losers any day of the week. Blind, two-timing noblemen never wear belted shorts.
Similarly, finding oneself at the epicenter of a vast, global conspiracy involving both the Knights Templar and the Vatican would be a huge improvement over slaving away at the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the rest of your life or being married to someone who is drowning in dunning notices from Williams-Sonoma. No matter what they may tell themselves, book lovers do not read primarily to obtain information or to while away the time. They read to escape to a more exciting, more rewarding world. A world where they do not hate their jobs, their spouses, their governments, their lives. A world where women do not constantly say things like ‘Have a good one!’ and ‘Sounds like a plan!’ A world where men do not wear belted shorts. Certainly not the Knights Templar.”
One thought on “Some words of wisdom from Joe Queenan”
Amen to that. That’s why I read 3 ‘junk’ novels for every one of literary or information value. It’s total escape, and I can’t wait to get back to my ‘alternate universe’ when I’m not actively engaged in the rest of my life. And when work is totally ‘unengaging,’ reading takes on an even bigger role….