Judging a Book by its Cover - The Last American
Where to start. Oh, yes. The cover is quite a thing. This copy, stamped 1902 with the dedication
"TO THOSE THOUGHTFUL PERSIANS WHO CAN READ A WARNING IN THE SUDDEN RISE AND SWIFT EXTINCTION OF A FOOLISH PEOPLE THIS VOLUME IS DEDICATED",
is up there on my most beautiful books list. I just had to have it. Today though, while deciding which of my favorite things to share with you, I remembered I hadn't read it in the couple years I've owned it. So I brought it to my reading chair on a frigid Colorado Sunday and devoured it.
So it's gorgeous, no doubt about it. Open it up and what's this? It's a story about discovering the ruins of the lost civilization of the Mehrikans. It's set in the year 2951, beautifully illustrated, and it's actually late 19th Century anti-utopian satire? Fab.
So John Ames Mitchell, my kind of book then. It is quite a fun ride, and I learned all kinds of things like how to name characters properly. The Persians who make this discovery have names like Nōfūl, Jā-khāz, and Fattan-laïz-eh. It's got great weight to it, it smells right as the pages turn, and it reminds me why I adore my books in the first place and why I can't ever give up reading a physical book.
So what happened to the Mehrikans? Only this much I can tell you.
They were great readers.
You have told us they had no literature. Were they great readers of nothing?
Verily, thou hast said it! Vast sheets of paper were published daily in which all crimes were recorded in detail. The more revolting the deed, the more minute the description. Horrors were their chief delight. Scandals were drunk in with thirstful eyes. Those chronicles of crime and filth were issued by hundreds of thousands. There was hardly a family in the land but had one.
And did this take the place of literature!
Go out and find a good old book. If it speaks to you, get it, even if all you know about it at first is that it's a lovely object to behold. Don't worry if you don't read it right away. Just keep reading and you'll get to it.