A Book-snob’s Book Self

“You read a LOTTTT of books!”, I got told today.
I wanted to grin an aristocratic grin (does aristocracy grin?) and say “I do, don’t I?” in as smug, pompous and show-off a tone as possible. But, not wanting to make my dear friend curse himself and bang his head on his keyboard as punishment for trying to start a normal human conversation with me, I let him off with something inanely polite. I’m a sweet angelic person, that way. B-)

But such angelic behavior shouldn’t be expected every time. For the reaction can’t be helped, you see. Books instil in one a kind of aristocratic snobbery and a basket full of prejudices that seem perfectly reasonable, you see. Us book-lovers are simply being polite when we express our feelings for books in dreamy, romantic ways (such as these – My Many Lovers and My Case for E-books), you see. All the while, we keep our true selves, our snobby book-selves, from the unsuspecting and fragile, you see.
What? You don’t see? Ah, you simpleton!
Come, let me enlighten you. [Puts her hand around your shoulder, and starts walking you like a pup.]

Every book-lover .aka. book-addict .aka. book-snob has a few traits that he or she might keep under covers in a bid to come across as a normal and reasonable human being. Learn these traits – will help you stay safe, or escape if face-to-face with danger..

  1. Every book-snob wants a library of her own. With shelves ceiling to floor, wall to wall, door to door. The better-off books occupying first class seats (front row), the poorer books occupying second class seats (back row), and the miscellaneous ones on unreserved tickets clinging on for dear life wherever they find stepping space. Book-spine fetish. The only book-snob who doesn’t want this is the one who has a right hand that hurts to hold a book for long and hence is on a strict diet of ebooks. Don’t get her started about this – unless you have insomnia and are desperate to fall asleep.
  2. All book-snobs nurture a secret seated-deep-in-subconscious ambition of writing a book. And it becoming a best seller. With critical acclaim. Being reprinted centuries later. Some would read an endless list of “How to Write” books as light reading – grammar and style-porn. But they’d tell you that they are too lazy to write books if you suggest that they write one. Which they are. Just to be safe, don’t insist; you’d only guilt them into writing and end up proof-reading revision after revision.
  3. Also, book-snobs believe that they are the last living authority on well-written, poorly written, books and gobbledygook non-books. Everything they love is well-written, everything they hate is gobbledygook, and everything else is poorly written. If you don’t want an impromptu made-up lecture on “good writing”, don’t show any kind of interest in this topic.
  4. A book-snob has a book-voice. This voice, heard only within her head, is soothing, sweet, strong, sexy, as need be. With an accent matching the current book. Plus, she want to see words while she hears them read – actually see printed words – word-porn. This is why she hates the idea of audio-books, and hates those who suggest audio-books. Don’t do it – unless of course, it is Benedict Cumberbatch or Naseeruddin Shah reading.
  5. Every book-snob has a genre or type of books that she will never read – unless the city is on fire and no other book is at reach, of course. It may be something as egoistic as “stuff practically every non-book-person is reading, and running around quoting favorite parts – like Paulo Coelho and Ayn Rand” or something as specific as “books on Indira Gandhi – cos they give you nightmares of her being assassinated. In a new way. Every night. Wearing a white salwar kameez with pink dupatta. Every night”. Whatever may be the reason – or non-reason – every book-snob has such a list. Draw her into a conversation on these books at your own risk.
  6. A book-snob has her streaks – periods of high-intensity, high-speed reading of books on the same topic. Or a quirky mix of topics, in alternation. Never ask her for book recommendations during these times. She’d act as if she is racking her brain for books you would like, but she’d goad you to read that quirky mix of books on exotic topics that she is currently obsessing over.
  7. All book-snobs would claim to be open-minded from their exposure to multiple worlds from book-universe, and rap you on the knuckles for being judgemental. But. Beware. You are constantly being judged by them – for not reading, for reading what you read, for not reading what you don’t read, for not reading what they read, for reading what they don’t read, and for not reading what they told you to read.
  8. Book-snobs can get .. ahem.. excited at the touch and smell of a pre-loved, hard-bound, gold-embossed, muscular, ancient treasure of a book or a virgin, glossy pristine sheeted, slim young book, according to their orientation. Some may deny this, but they are simply yet to discover themselves. Find their preference. They all have one – that’s how they were born. Set them up with such a book when you want them to shut up.
  9. An advanced book-snob will label every genre that she has outgrown ‘juvenile’. For instance, all fiction except historic fiction is juvenile. Thrillers and science fiction are picture books. Except Michael Crichton, obviously. Sometimes, she’d pick up the thriller you are reading and whisper to its cover – “Grow up!”. Suggest that she read it if you are intent on insulting her.
  10. Quotes. They chime in insecurity into over book-snob-land. Some book-snobs have a database with quick-retrieval search algorithms in their brains. They can quote extensively, from an extensive set of books, an extensive set of ‘profound’ lines – all relevant to the ongoing conversation. These freak snobs make the normal snob insecure. For the normal snob rarely remembers the exact story events or characters in most books she has read, forget about remembering lines. She remembers only how the book made her feel. That’s what makes her normal, and human – almost. Ask her for her favorite book-quotes if you are feeling wicked.
  11. Book-snobs have a love-hate-mostly-hate relationship with “literature” and those fancy award-winning books. While these make for excellent take-note-of-my-high-intellect fodder, most are extremely irritating to read with their unnaturally long sentences, rambling descriptions, and people who seem to do everything slowly, for no reason, without getting anything anywhere. Or have dead dogs talking for pages and pages (remember My Name is Red?). Our book-snobs buy such books on and off from guilt, seldom finishing any, and put them on prime-spots on their book-shelves. You may safely start a discussion on these books and rest assured that the conversation would be steered away from books.
  12. Last, but never the least.. most book-snobs have a list of their own traits and very confidently claim that every single “true” book-snob alive shares those traits. One can’t really reason with this demented lot. Don’t waste your time trying. You’ll go mad. And bald.

Phew! With that you may be able to save yourself some hurt, some burn, some confusion, some fear, and of course, some rage.
Take care.
You are welcome.

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