Eulogy for an Aging Book Guy

The least I can do is ride out this “book guy” thing until it reaches its logical conclusion.

| Summer 2018

I’m thinking about giving up my identity as a “book guy.” (Which doesn’t mean that I’m giving up on reading per se; simply that I’m considering no longer so aggressively inserting that particular pastime into my outward facing persona.) And not because “book guy” has somehow become any less gratifying a façade — if anything, my affection for its particulars have only strengthened with time. (I love the thick-rimmed glasses, the T-shirts adorned with faded images of out-of-print novels, the smug sense of superiority I get to feel as I stare over the spine of “Infinite Jest” on the subway — the teeming mass of my fellow commuters immersed in the decidedly less-worthy diversions of “iPhones,” “newspapers,” and “not desperately trying to impress a trainful of strangers with a faulty air of intellectual authority.”) The honest truth is that I actually really like being a book guy; it’s simply that, as time progresses and mores shift, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to justify the “book guy persona” as anything resembling efficacious. (For one thing, I’m finding that, past a certain point, people are unwilling to tolerate the use of a word like efficacious in what was, up to that point, casual conversation.)

Compounding the issue is the fact that, at some point over the last several years — a time which was for me primarily spent agonizing over the decision as to whether or not taking up pipe-smoking would be seen as a bit too “on the nose” — television has apparently become really, really good. Not to overstate the fact, but the near universal consensus appears to be that we’re living in what can only be described as a new golden age of the medium, with legitimate auteurs reshaping the television landscape through a groundbreaking combination of breathtaking cinematography, innovative storytelling, and an eagerness to confront even the most pressing social issues of the day. Which is — of course — objectively good for humanity.

But it’s objectively terrible for me.

Because the underlying premise that “television is inherently not good” is one of the core tenets of the entire “book guy” identity. At least, it used to be. It used to be that I — a “book person” — stood in stark contrast to you — a “television person.” I represented a “beacon of urbane intellectualism.” You represented a “couch-sustained root vegetable.” I didn’t “watch TV.” I “derived pleasure from the written word.” I didn’t “laugh at situation comedies.” I spent my days “quietly admiring wit.” You’d ask me if I’d “seen the new King of Queens” and I’d ask you if you’d “read the new David Sedaris.”

(Sure, I was a dick. But I was a literate dick.)

And yet, even in the face of all that obnoxious pretension, I still maintain that my core thesis held true. Because, at the time when I was truly coming of age as an adult — the time when the various facets of my personality were coalescing into something resembling a coherent identity — television was, for the most part, just not that good. Although it seems antiquated by the standards of today, this was a time when people still casually dismissed their television sets with such trivializing monikers as “the baby-sitter,” the “idiot box,” and, perhaps most efficaciously, “the boob tube.” (The implication being, of course, that anyone who owned a television set was, at least in some peripheral sense, a boob.)

7/6/2018 12:17:22 PM

Good Goddess. Did nobody ever teach you the judicious use of italics?

Rosa da Nosa
7/6/2018 8:28:30 AM

The book is always better except, of course, for Lonesome Dove and Gone With the Wind. Stay the Book Guy but let's get a TV Guy too. :)

Rosa da Nosa
7/6/2018 8:28:00 AM

The book is always better except, of course, for Lonesome Dove and Gone With the Wind. Stay the Book Guy but let's get a TV Guy too. :)