My sister and I were engrossed in a cider list, yesterday evening, when our server interrupted by asking “Are you St. John’s students?” We both blinked at her in confusion for a moment.
St. John’s College has been around in some form since 1784 (and some would tack another hundred years on that), with the Santa Fe campus coming into existence in 1964. It’s a place where folks go to read – the Santa Fe campus is well known for it’s Master of Arts in Eastern Classics. I know people who have gotten that degree, as well as people who love to hate on the college.
“I just saw the books, and I wondered,” our server added, and I remembered that I was sitting next to a couple of used books I’d picked up earlier that day. Kurt Vonnegut’s Hocus Pocus was sitting on top.
“Oh no, no,” my sister and I admitted with bemused grins. “We just like reading.”
“And real books, too,” our server said. “Are you ready to order?”
Wait…real books? As opposed to…?
As we were walking home later, I was still puzzling a little over being mistaken for a “Serious Reader”, ah la St. John’s student, based on the fact that I appeared in proximity to Vonnegut. My sister hastened to remind me that she’d only ever read Vonnegut for a class assignment.
Which is when this whole scenario made my forehead crinkle. I read Hellboy comics and Andrei Bely’s Petersburg in the same week. I read Vonnegut for giggles and ideas (for fun, basically). My appetite for story can be (temporarily) satiated in the Literature section of Powell’s City of Books as well as on the stationary aisle at the corner Rite Aid. I can claim to read widely, and sometimes well, but you won’t catch me with a “real book” in my hands.
It annoys me that the myth of the “real book” is endlessly used as a way to build walls around folks, break connections, or feed ego at the expense of others. There are far more important things to do than make such illusory distinctions. The fact that we let folks nitpick such (usually) minor details as what type of books we read, is part of why we let folks get away with making other profound (but equally illusory) distinctions.
They’re all REAL books, folks. Let’s move on.