The Text That Chooses You

On finding books and books finding us, and on Roland Barthes’s text as fetish.

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https://www.wikiart.org/en/carl-spitzweg/the-book-worm/
The Book Worm by Carl Spitzweg (1850)

 

Books sit on shelves and wait for us to find them. 

Not quite.

Every book, inanimate as it is in its state of matter, may not have the attention-seeking drive of a living, brainy organism, but it does have a presence that selectively draws some of us closer, while repelling others.

Little experience with book covers (design, size, publisher’s logo) is needed before you can make a basic, almost subconscious approximation: yea or nay. A little more experience with certain authors, and you know upon associating their names to a new text where you stand in relation to it.

That’s old-school thinking. Still basically correct today, though evolved.

Subtler forces govern a book-world where shelf browsing often happens online, at clicking speed, where previews and reviews are abundant, where recommendation lists crop up unbidden (books-by-this-author, lists-with-this-book, what-others-who-liked-this-also-bought), and where many, mostly older, books are freely available on sites like gutenberg.org (50k) or archive.org (1500k). Continue reading “The Text That Chooses You”