If you’ve ever been to a trendy coffee shop, you’ve seen someone sitting in an overstuffed armchair, conspicuously keeping track of the multiple bookmarks stuck into their perfectly-aged copy of “Infinite Jest”. Their unkempt beards and knock-off designer glasses frames assure us all that they have, indeed, considered the lobster.
What many of you may not know, however, is that there is a subset of this population that only emerges when the days grow shorter and the leaves begin to turn. I’m speaking, of course, of guys who read “House of Leaves” in public.
The cafes they frequent might be dimmer and danker, but the way they twist and turn the tome in their hands is no easier to ignore than the bookmark management of “Infinite Jest” readers. Either one of these guys is certain to distract you while you’re trying to figure out the shop’s nitro options from its poorly designed menu.
Both readers would defend their actions as normal. Wallace fans claim that flipping back and forth between the main text of “Infinite Jest” and its interminable endnotes replicates the game of tennis, a game famous for being clumsy and slow. “House of Leaves” proponents claim that the book’s unique typesetting actually affects their sanity, as the book’s author Mark Z. Danielewski disregarded decades of warnings from psychologists, who say that turning a book upside down can literally make you lose your mind.
Neither admit the true reason for their behavior: they want people to notice them and assume that they are intellectual.
Any printed material over 700 pages isn’t a book; it’s a prop. I’m not saying that there’s no wisdom or entertainment within those pages, but it’s not the object’s primary purpose. Countless people have found comfort in religious texts like the Bible, but you can bet that exponentially more have held the book aloft as a token of their supposed piety. Anyone who owns an omnibus copy of Lord of the Rings certainly isn’t reading that edition. Books were made to fit into a human hand, just as God designed us. I read about that in the Bible while I was sitting in my local coffee shop. You know, the one that’s closed on Sundays.