Books Are Bad for You

A few years ago, writing about the book business and how dumbed down and craven books had become--and pathetic, designed only to sell and then not selling--I wrote the line "books suck," subjecting me to much middlebrow opprobrium.

I'd like to revise that line: Books are evil.

They're pernicious. They represent themselves as being one thing, when they're insidiously the opposite.

Sarah Palin, for instance, did not write her book and, what's more, it is not meant to be read like you read a book. It's a preposterous image, someone actually sitting down and furrowing their brow over the Palin work. But this is hardly a point just about Palin. Her comrade in arms, Glenn Beck, has a similarly treacherous book he's selling--that is, one that is neither written nor read. It's a model followed by almost every politician with ambitions or entertainer without something better to do. (The president's first book was, arguably, an exception; his second was not.)

This sort of book once fell into a particular publishing category called a vanity book--it was not to be taken seriously. It was to be dismissed, or tolerated only with the clearest condescension.

But now the most valuable and therefore well-looked-after books are vanity publications.

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