It's hard being a book lover sometimes because every so often you get The Fear.
The Fear comes along when you sense a dark shadow over your shoulder or a little darkness in your belly and it suddenly occurs to you: not everybody likes books.
I don't mean I think everyone should be reading 'classics' or non-genre fiction or even non Oprah-endorsed fiction (she did, after all, spruik Jonathan Franzen's spectacular The Corrections, which is quite remarkable when you think about it). There are, naturally, books I think are Good Books or Books You Should Read but I read plenty of weird and trashy stuff and other people can read what they like. They just have to read.
Recently(ish) I got The Fear when I recounted what I thought was a brilliant anecdote about a quite brilliant author and journalist. Someone famous. Someone who has had books written about him and movies made of his books. I finished my anecdote and waited for smiles. Nuthin'.
"Who's that?" my audience asked. It took a bit to sink in: they had no idea who I was talking about. The audience in question was made up of some of my favourite people in the world: people who were lovely, very smart and well educated. But this moment gave me The Fear.
Even worse than the above is hearing the phrase "I don't really read". I know people who don't really read and they are people I like but cannot ever completely understand. It's like living your life and never listening to music. It's like chips without salt. No, fuck, it's like life without chips. I don't know why anyone would choose that once they've tasted how good books can be. Maybe they are put off because they never read as kids and they only have the memories of slugging through Macbeth in high school. I don't know. But I wonder sometimes if they know what they're missing out on... which is everything.
But all that pretentious wank is just a way of saying that sometimes you can get the opposite of The Fear. I don't really know what that is but I got it today when I heard that a copy of Emily Bronte's novel Wuthering Heights sold for 114,000 pounds, more than double the expected price.
Oh sure I know it was probably for a rich old bint who is 110-years-old and it doesn't represent anything bigger, other than that some people have obscene amounts of money, but I don't much care. I love Wuthering Heights in all its melodrama, slushy over-the-top romance and roaming around the moors and, every so often, it's just nice to hear that someone else does too.
Phew, it took a while to get there, didn't it?