Hey, I noticed you checking out my tote bag. I’m sure you see a lot of totes on the train, all about food co-ops or public radio or theater repertory companies. But me, I use this expanse of unbleached cotton-canvas blend to say one thing: I love books.
Oh, you like reading too? What’s that, a Kindle? I bet you’re a real bibliophile. I bet you spend minutes every day “reading” whatever YA trilogy was just recommended to you by Emily in Sales Planning. I bet your idea of purchasing art is picking up a copy of Water Lillies at Bed Bath & Beyond.
Let me make one thing abundantly clear in case you misread this tote bag. I. Love. Books. Unlike you, I do not love looking at digital words borrowed to me by Kommandant Bezos. I do not love ruthlessly gutting the innocent publishing industry in the name of bankrolling original online video content. And I do not love wrapping my hands around LeVar Burton’s neck, squeezing harder and harder until I can no longer hear his desperate cries for a literate, caring society. But you certainly don’t have to take his word for it, you monster.
You hurry the day when Colum McCann serves you a chalupa between revisions. When Jeffrey Eugenides staggers down the platform rattling a cup full of quarters. When your Uber arrives and Junot Díaz looks back at you from the driver’s seat, praying you give him five stars.
You watch it all burn until finally, millennia from now, an alien race tries to piece together the essence of human culture and finds not physical artifacts proving the rich canon of man’s achievement, but merely lists of expired Kindle titles, revoked long ago due to royalty disputes.
So just go ahead and take that seat. Hunch over your little slab of plastic and engross yourself in the romantic foibles of teens doing battle in a dystopian society. I will stand tall with this hardback edition of Infinite Jest, my wrists straining and biceps trembling beneath a panoply of vaguely-linear subplots. I will turn each thick, rough-cut page with relish while you tap at your capacitive screen like a pigeon in a Skinner box.
Then tonight, long after the sun has set and you’ve finished heaving human potential into the sucking maw of the Netflix-industrial complex, I’ll still be awake, making sweet love to The Collected Stories of William Faulkner on a bed of yellowed pages, my ecstatic moans of pleasure reaching the furthest corners of Yoknapatawpha County.
I say this not to brag. But simply because, as the tote bag says, I love books.