You’re at a party, and someone says, “Hey, did you see Top Chef last night? Can you believe that Hosea and Leah actually made out after swearing they were just friends?” Now look around. You know that guy in the group that crinkles his nose like he smelled something foul and says “Oh, I’m sorry, I don’t watch TV” in the same tone you'd tell people that you would never serve Hot Pockets to your wedding guests? That guy is a bookist. And I can’t stand him.
Bookist n. 1. One who dogmatically assumes the superiority of the book over other forms of communication or entertainment.
That’s right, you just saw a term being coined. You can say you were there when.
This guy and his ilk are also known to say the following:
“I’m sorry, I only watch PBS and C-SPAN.”
Ed. Note: This one is a dead giveaway. Nobody watches C-SPAN.
“No, I didn’t see that. I rarely go to the movies anymore, too much Hollywood crap.”
“That movie was terrible. The book was so much better.”
That last one is the one that burns me. Bookists use reductive logic, starting with the given that they are smarter than you because they think books are better than movies. Besides, they don’t even count Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution or Sports Illustrated as books! What kind of bullshit is that? They do not accept the very basic idea that filmed entertainment and books have drastically different dramatic requirements. Movies are two hours long, and yes, parts of the book have to be condensed or eliminated. Take out your favorite novel, Fauntleroy, and read for two hours. How far do you get? Not very fucking far. Frankly, many times the story improves when a lot of extraneous crap is excised. Books and movies are separate works that should be judged on their own merits. Either medium can produce genius or trash, so don't act like Moses brought Confessions of a Shopaholic down from Mount Sinai on stone tablets because it's a book. You know who I blame? Educators. Teachers are the ones that taught us that books are good and TV is bad. And they want raises?
So why are bookists wrong?
One reason is that the golden age of English literature was the 19th century. One key characteristic of the 19th century is that there was NO TELEVISION. Books were the popular medium of the day (except for street theater, which sucked just as much then as it does now), so all the happening creative types wrote books. Is it outlandish to suggest that if Charles Dickens lived today, Great Expectations would be an HBO miniseries? Hell no. And that would just leave your average bookist in the fetal position crying for mommy.
The other reason is that the mass media are the only thing left giving us a shred of connection to our fellow man. Anyone of a certain age remembers watching the moon landing. The Kennedy assassination. Hosea and Leah hooking up on Top Chef. It’s a sad thing, folks! Network TV = Community. Nobody stands around the water cooler talking about the Utne Reader.
I don’t think I’m any smarter than these people (as far as you know.) But don’t be a hater. Especially since I know…deep down…in my gut…you sit home on the odd Saturday night with orange Cheeto dust on your fingers, watching some guy in an undershirt get dragged out of his trailer and whaled on. And Cops ain’t on PBS. Yet.