January 23, 2020
“Book murderer” feels wrath of Twitter over eccentric practice
by Mike Lindgren
Yesterday my colleague called me a ‘book murderer’ because I cut long books in half to make them more portable. Does anyone else do this? Is it just me? pic.twitter.com/VQUUdJMpwT
— Alex Christofi (@alex_christofi) January 21, 2020
Holy book banshees! Twitter practically exploded with disdain Tuesday when a writer and editor by the name of Alex Christofi casually admitted that he often slices long paperbacks in half (lengthwise!) to make them easier to carry and read. You’d think he was advocating human sacrifice from the ensuing kerfuffle! Many of the responses included some variation on the word monster; a plurality included suggestions that the author of the tweet perhaps invest in an “e-reader.” In the pages of The Guardian, Christofi defended the practice, noting that “whenever I had a big paperback I would leave it at home unread, or struggle through eight pages a night before falling asleep.” He spoke too of being “strangely heartened that people care so much. How amazing that we still value books when so much else is digital or disposable.” We’ll drink to that!
To summarize, the responses to the tweet seemed divided between those who felt themselves to be defenders of the book as a sacred object, deserving of respect, and an opposing party built along quasi-libertarian (“it’s his book, he can do whatever he wants with it”) and pragmatist (“at least he’s reading”) lines. These warring factions, viewed in a certain light, seem to represent the id and superego of the book-buying public, the tweet a remote frontier in the endless struggle between aesthetics and utility, the whole debate a touching referendum on the teleology of consumer society and the inherent tensions between base and superstructure. From a semiotic standpoint Christofi’s mutilated copy of Infinite Jest comes to stand for the violence done by time to all of society’s recorded expressions, a mute symbol of the ineluctable pathos of the logos … or something …
Well, er, maybe not. And anyway, we have the perfect solution! Book too long? Why not try one of the entries in our Art of the Novella series? We have thoroughly road tested these compact volumes, whose authors run the gamut from Conrad to Chopin, Austen to Aleichim, and can guarantee that they all fit snugly in the pocket of a jacket or parka. No need for cutting and hacking! Problem solved!
Michael Lindgren is the Managing Editor at Melville House.