Every year millions of books are published, but how many can we read, just going on full time? 1000 per year? That will be quite an achievement. Perhaps one day we’ll insert a chip in our brain containing billion of pages which we may peruse at will, even if this will lead us straight into madness.
Guido Morselli (1912-1973) an Italian writer rich enough not to work, locked himself up in his villa reading and writing full time, without getting out to have a social life. He sent his manuscripts to publishers and all of them were rejected, finally, after the last rejection, he shot himself. After his tragic end they agree to publish all his books, which are still in print even if they are never at the top of the pile.
How to select a good book to read, then, fishing in the bookish Ocean? A safe bet would be to read those which were written by dead people, as when you’re dead you normally don’t have a lot of agents, marketing people, publishing houses etc. trying to make you do signings , inflating your publicity in the social media, chasing reviewers, doing spreads in the Sunday papers glossy mags etc. Furthermore, if a writer’s dead, critics tend to be a lot more honest, as they won’t offend his or her sensitivity.
I recently try to read a fictional book written by an Americal lady – a work of fiction – and if she was dead then I would have had no qualms about speaking my true mind about her book. But being quite alive I found myself lying about it being good, interesting, and so on. I threw it away after the fifth page, as some will do with my books.
Whenever I want to read books from the living I use the 69 page rule of checking. Even if I personally add to it also page 1.
Why 69? I am not talking porno here but many things are tied to 69, like the Moon’s landing and a long list of people dyeing at 69.
The 69 theory was first put forward by Canadian academic and writer Marshall McLuhan. His theory of how to choose a book goes like this: first of all, read page 69. If you like it, then chances are high you’ll like the rest of it too.
Strange enough for reasons which I still cannot fathom it seems to work better with me than the blurbs – never innocents – put on the back cover, while on the contrary the 69 rule is completely innocent and honest.
If combined with the reading of page 1, it seldom fails to serve me well, but if you’re still unconvinced I suggest you carry out a similar experiment which was widely used with the Bible. Open a page at random, point the finger and see which page, or line, it is, invert the number (83 become 38) then try it.