Ah! The giddy joy of book cliché season is upon us once more. We bookworms can openly make comments such as, “So many books, so little time,” without fear of being teased incessantly by friend or foe for promulgating clichés. This is the time of year we are given a free pass to run afoul with book talk, reading recommendations, book review madness, and general biblio-lunacy.
You might be wondering what jump-starts this biblio free-for-all? And the answer is simple:
It’s due to the end-of-year book awards and notable book lists, which have just been announced—and denounced.
The National Book Club whittled its finalists from 1,500 books to a list of five works in each of four categories: fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people’s literature. If one disagrees with the list, one can get away with paraphrasing Louisa May Alcott: “I totally disagree with this list, the judges are way too fond of books, and it has turned their brains.”
When Carmen Maria Machado’s fantastical premises in “Her Body and Other Stories” make the final list, one can’t help but quote Stephen King and utter one’s agreement with a joyous, “Books are a uniquely portable magic.”
However, the announcement of the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2017 can really fire up the engines of heated book conversation. It seems that all my bibliomaniacs are foaming at the mouth to voice their opinions. There are those who actually print the 38-page list and use a red marker to slash all the selections they despise. Their hearts and minds are closed to the majority of books on the list. If one quotes Carlos Ruiz Zafón and says, “Books are mirrors; you only see in them what you already have inside you,” they look puzzled. “Are you making fun of me or do you agree with me?” the book haters ask.
I take this as a cue and exit the book-bashing by uttering a feel-good quote by Jorge Luis Borges:
I sigh like a saint and say, “I have always imagined paradise will be a kind of library.”
I’m aware that this is a vague non sequitur cliché, but after all, I’ll be forgiven because it truly is the season of so many books and so little time.