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Micah
I don't get the fetishizing of reading/books. Or rather I think I do. For many Westerners today it's an identification with "I am not bourgeoisie" ... "because I'm nerd-bohemian". It's probably not a big deal, but it is interesting.
To fetishise is to mistake the part for the whole- here reading for some (assumed) status. Me, I just enjoy it :) - Pete : Team Marina
There's a bit of a fetishization of being ignorant in the US. Dubya was a classic exemplar. Not that reading books automatically makes one informed and wise, but it's one of the tools for becoming informed. My father is an avid reader. Me and my older siblings read. My younger siblings view books (i.e. reading) the way a vampire views a crucifix. So I think the "fetishizing" of reading books is probably a reaction to how widespread it is *not* to read books in the US today. - Spidra Webster
I have no idea what you mean about fetishizing. I read books. So do most other people who don't treasure ongoing ignorance. I don't go waving them around in public or anything, but I do count on a big network of local institutions supporting my "fetish." I sure do see what Spidra's saying, though. - Walt Crawford
"So do most other people who don't treasure ongoing ignorance." Because that can only be done by reading books... I think a lot of people actually read, but don't consider it reading because it's not in an old, handy container. - kendrak
Aren't Westerners more invested in identifying with being bourgeois than being "nerd-bohemian?" - Steele Lawman
Along that line, I don't get setting a goal of reading X number of books by Y time limit. How can they have time to absorb and mentally digest what they've read? I read and re-read books all the time. I can understand setting a goal so that you *read* in general but sometimes it's too much. - Zulema ❧ spicy cocoa tart
Kendra: Micah said "fetishizing of reading/books." I didn't do the "reading/books" bit, but I will damn well assert that reading is the principal way of overcoming ignorance. (And are you saying ebooks aren't books? I don't say that.) I never know when The Kendra Patrol will pounce on whatever I might say...sure does make social networking fun. - Walt Crawford
Reading books and overcoming ignorance have a lovely history together, but they also have had plenty of time to go their own way. Regardless, while Walt may not fetishize books, it's clear to me that books are a very complicated and loaded signifier in our culture. - Steele Lawman
I'll try to address everyone in-thread—I appreciate your input. Walt, I'm with you that literacy (put in practice) is a huge hedge against ignorance and victimization—we're on the same page there. What I'm on about is the a subset of the already moderately to highly literate who fetishize, or let's leave it at romanticize, even, and the focus becomes all the trappings of a 'bookworm lifestyle'. - Micah
Pete, enjoyment is permitted. Proceed at the speed limit. ;) - Micah
I didn't own many books when young, which may be why I enjoy having a library at home; I used the public library a lot (see first point ;) ), which is why I value libraries even if I don't 'need' them. Ignorance is overcome by gaining knowledge and experience; reading is part of this balanced diet :) - Pete : Team Marina
Steve, re. "Aren't Westerners...", based on reality TV vs reading statistics alone, a large number are, absolutely. - Micah
Zulema, yeah that X books by Y is in the realm of promoting goals that may or may not make sense for any given individual. On the other hand, the endeavor at its core does a lot more good than harm, and the approach (like suggesting healthy eating) can compete with various other programs—let the greater successes thrive. - Micah
Spidra, "but it's one of the tools for becoming informed."—I like that point. - Micah
Reading is exalted because reading helps us become the type of beings--empathetic and knowledgeable--that are capable of being ruled by law. And only beings ruled by law can hope to live together in any kind of freedom and harmony. So reading is a way of saying I give a shit about the world I live in, which is rather more than a fetish. - Todd Hoff
Todd, I don't necessarily disagree, but what if you're in N. Korea and are only reading propaganda? - Micah
Micah, I taught a class a few months ago about the history and future of books. Here is a final exam question I wish I had given, but did not. I think the last sentence is pertinent: "For a college book-collecting contest, a student wanted to submit a collection of electronic books. Would you allow such a submission? In supporting your answer consider some of the following: What are good criteria for judging a collection of tangible, physical books? Is it possible to evaluate a collection of electronic books the same way, or would you propose different criteria? Is it possible or useful to compare collections of paper books and electronic books? How do concepts of “individuality,” “ownership,” and “scarcity” affect your answer? Is book collecting of any kind merely a bourgeois exercise in Pokemon-esque conspicuous consumption, narcissism, elitism, and crypto-fetishism by an anal-retentive phallocracy of bibliobores?" - Steele Lawman
I want that last sentence on a bourgeois-message T-shirt. :) - Micah
"It's a little bit more complicated than that" - Pete : Team Marina
Wow. Interesting final question. I guess I'd distinguish between a book collection as an act of curation (real curation) and a book collection as a neato set of objects. In the former case, it strikes me that a collection of ebooks would be entirely appropriate. As to the last sentence, I'm almost inclined to say "Probably. Is something wrong with that?" but I'm afraid my tongue would puncture my cheek. - Walt Crawford
Walt, if you turned that opinion into an essay, you would have received a good grade. :) - Steele Lawman
Micah: Good response. I guess I see more people fetishizing their iPads and smartphones and Mercedes than I do fetishizing books. And I really haven't encountered anybody (except maybe pre-kindergarten types) fetishizing reading. (I may run with the wrong crowd, mostly a bunch of retired scientists on weekly hikes--long on public library users, short on fetishists.) - Walt Crawford
Walt, indeed. It's probably a rounding error percentage, but some act as if replacing iPad preciousness with Paperback as such, that it's an unquestionable improvement. - Micah
Steve: If I'd taken the course--and I suspect I'd love a course like that--I probably would have turned that response into an essay. Thanks. - Walt Crawford
I read, and have always read because I like reading. I didn't know that it was really anything much more than that. - Derrick
A clarification (for Micah, if nobody else): My brother & sister-in-law, both highly intelligent, LOVE their iPads. But they don't fetishize them. Nor do most iPad/iPhone/iWhatever users. People who need fetishes will always find something. (Looka my overpriced wristwatch! Well, not *mine*--it's hard to overprice a Timex. But change the first three letters from Tim to Rol...) - Walt Crawford
Steve, of course I translate your question over to a music collection, since that's what I primarily collect. It's interesting how often people who collect books/read a lot don't see the similarity between lots of ebooks and a huge hard drive of mpfrees. Alas... Walt, you are one of the most practical fellows I've chanced upon the internet. - kendrak
Right, right--someone's record collection has a lot of history encoded or associated with the physical objects that just isn't there in the MP3 collection. It's stripped of aura. - Steele Lawman
Yes, but that doesn't mean somebody can't curate a really good digital collection. Of course the vinyl snobs will turn their noses, and then there's the people who try to catch-em-all like Pokemon. Just like books/ebooks. - kendrak
Yep, I expect my agreement with you is close to total. :) - Steele Lawman
Zulema, I set reading goals this year mainly to push myself to get off the internet and read a book now and then. Given that I would consume 5-7 books a week on summer breaks as a teen, I feel rather shameful about how few I read now as an adult (and librarian!), so I'm trying to change my behavior. This doesn't mean that I value what I read any less, or that I don't take time to digest it. - Holly's favorite Anna
I collect CDs for archival and art purposes. I like looking at them. I rip them and play the MP3s on various devices in order to hear their contents. I would treat my book collection much the same if I could "rip" the paper copies into ebooks as easily as I do the CDs. Instead, my move to the ebook realm has been slow, as I am a cheapskate who hates paying for something twice. - Holly's favorite Anna
Anna, that is one reason piracy is an attractive option (for both cases). - kendrak
I sense that at some point somebody here read me as making an equation that I neither said nor intended. I've spun that off into a blog post as it would threadjack this already convoluted thread. http://walt.lishost.org/2012... - Walt Crawford
I'm reading your post, Walt. Good show. - Micah
Okay. Here's the actual thing that got me musing the result of which was the OP. It's by no means the only inspiration: http://littlemissdorkette.tumblr.com/post... . But here's the thing. I didn't see it in sufficient context; I didn't see that it was a response to http://thoughtcatalog.com/2011... as referenced at the top of the post. I'm more amiable to it having reconsidered it in a less discombobulated form. - Micah
This is very off-topic considering your context, but I deeply enjoy a certain level of fetishizing things - books, laptops, watches, efficiently engineered ice cream scoops, whatever. Developing quirky and intense attachments to the things I own (or borrow for free in the case of library items) is one of the easiest ways I know to dampen my desire for New New New New. (They're happy attachments - it doesn't bother me to give them up when I have to.) If I get a mild surge of glee from looking at my local public library's sticker on a battered paperback, or from the springiness of the full-size keyboard on my one-handed laptop, or fiddle with the leather keepers on my watch-with-the-Shire-map-on until they wear out, or chortle happily to myself about how much I love clicking the +'s and -'s in pinboard's right sidebar .... that seems to be a few more harmless drops of joy in the world, nu? Routine and objectification and srs ritual all sort of run together for me spiritually... If I'm going to do these things anyway, why not be as enthused by them as possible? - Marianne
Marianne, thank you for expression that. I think finding wonder in the familiar, the little rituals in one's daily life is quite wonderful. I enjoy my hyper-attention to certain things or moments that I can't even pull back and explain why it is so. I think the small fire in my belly was about being blinded by indulgences that go unquestioned or kidgloved. I think of my own idiosyncrasies, and sometimes I do myself a disservice when I overprotect them. If they can live a little in the daylight, and absorb bumping into how others might be drawn to or repelled from them, that's healthy, that a good thing. - Micah
The two contextual links are interesting, and I can see "fetishize" given that context--although once you've read the Thoughtcatalog piece, I'm not sure I'd apply it to the response. (In my casual read, the Thoughtcatalog piece was hard to pin down: Is the person being ironic or not? Sometimes it's hard to be subtle online. Hell, sometimes it's hard to be subtle offline! Overuse of four-letter words in a manner that seems to suggest lack of a more extensive vocabulary didn't help, but that's probably just me.) - Walt Crawford
One thing that still troubles me is the assumption (or my perception of) the need to read books (in print or electronic) to learn/overcome ignorance. Lots of people spend large chunks of time on the internet reading, but it's not in an easy container like a book. It's still reading, though I don't know if I'd say it's the same. So when I say "I don't read" it's sort of a joke and defensive mechanism against people who think you simply must read books to be a worthwhile person, but then I will also spend hours trawling the web looking for information about some random thing. - kendrak