You probably think I'm wrong. You probably also think President Obama was born on this planet. Ha! The very idea. I'm not saying you're stupid. You are, but I'm not saying that. What I'm saying is that you probably read a lot of books and newspapers that feed you a bunch of numbers about literacy rates going up or about how more books are being produced than ever before. You're missing one simple fact, though: Books aren't being read. They're being bought.
I bet if we had a pop quiz about all the New York Times bestsellers from the last year, everyone would fail, even if all the questions were on E. L. James's Fifty Shades of Grey. (Though anyone who follows my blog, BetterBookTitles.com, will know what the book is really trying to say... )
Books are an obsolete means by which to relate the human experience to others. If you want a deep understanding of the human soul these days, your only choice is listening to podcasts. But for those of you who are hooked on literary fiction with its spirited prose about love, sex, and death, the future does offer one cache of reading material:
Yelp currently brands itself as a consumer-based rating system for restaurants and bars. If you've read anything by anyone with an active account on Yelp, however, you'll notice these writers are the world's best journalists, memoirists, and fiction writers today. I've been to the future, and mostly what I saw there was a government run completely by mathematics like in Zamyatin's We, but with more organ harvesting like in Never Let Me Go.
But in the future I also saw that fiction and memoirs outlining our basic shared experiences will all be featured on Yelp rather than in books. Because if I can't rate the experience I'm having, why bother having the experience at all?
Here are some Yelp reviews of intense emotional experiences we once found in books:
Gestation and Birth:
Maybe I'm biased toward this womb because it belongs to the first and only mother I ever had, but I had a GREAT TIME in there. Warm, great environment for anyone looking to become a person. Got a little crowded toward the end (even though I was the only one there!), and I did not enjoy the (seemingly unplanned) little operation at the end when I was escorted head-first out of the space by strangers. DON'T LIKE TO BE HANDLED LIKE THAT, GUYZ! But all in all, a decent time. 4/5 stars.
If you're looking for a super-scary time where you don't know WHAT'S happening with your body or emotions, Puberty is for you! Tons of terrible times to look back on later and laugh, but mostly fun because there's only one goal in mind: sex! And boy did I make it worth my while (by myself). Watch out for mood swings and false confidence. 5/5 stars.
First Time on Magic Mushrooms:
First off, just want to say that EVERYONE recommended these to me, saying it was like THE BEST TIME EVER. Took a few, waited, and all that happened was I convulsed and sweat through my shirt and saw the face of God and understood briefly that all people, trees, energy are infinitely connected. HUH! OVERRATED! 2/5 stars.
REALLY not into this breakup thing. Some people told me that I'd feel better after a while, but right now I'm not digging it! A lot of people said it was better to know what it was like to really love someone than not to love someone, but was it REALLY worth it?!? It cost like, tons of money and a lot of time and energy. I should have just stayed home and watched Netflix for a year. 1/5 stars.
Fight with Roommate:
I don't mean to waste your time with this (GOD KNOWS I've wasted an eternity on this already), but everything is Jeff's fault. He like, doesn't get it. Fuck this shit. I'm out! 2/5 stars.
Real bummer. Loved the music, and the setting was perfect for being sad and existentially terrified, but I spent less time thinking about my loved one and more time thinking about what's the most inappropriate outburst I could have at a moment like this. Also had to have a harsh look in the mirror when I didn't cry as much at this funeral as I did at the last one I had for my bird, Francis, who died when I was in sixth grade. 4/5 stars.
Really fun! Great band, sexy person to get married to who supports all my hopes and dreams. Not really into the whole "sudden doubt" thing hitting me right before the ceremony. If someone could look into fixing that, it was otherwise a really great time. Free booze (that my dad paid for)! 5/5.
I can't stop telling people how great this little person is! So cool! Keep reading this post to find out about every second I've spent with this little guy so far:
BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH looks just like her mom! 5/5 stars.
Really walked in here with some negative vibes about the experience, but once I arrived, I found it super-calming. Very cool visuals, and it felt good to yell all my pent-up secrets just before I cast my last breath into the air! Not nearly as bad as I thought it'd be. Be wary, though: slightly more intense than mushrooms. 4/5 stars.
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Dan Wilbur is a comedian, a writer, and an avid video game player living in Brooklyn, NY. His writing is featured on CollegeHumor.com, McSweeney’s, and the Onion News Network. Dan is the creator and editor of Better Book Titles. His first humor book, How Not to Read, will be published by Perigee (Penguin) on September 4.
Books mentioned in this post
Dan Wilbur is the author of How Not to Read: Harnessing the Power of a Literature-Free Life