Intelligence and the Appearance of It

I like books. I read quite a lot of them and I have never been without a significant backlog of books to read since I was a teenager. Not everyone is like this though and there is nothing necessarily wrong with not being a reader. Most people in human history (including some truly great men), have not been able to read at all.

It also very much depends on what you read. Certain types of women are fond of reminding men that they consume a large chunk of the book market but they are far less fond of giving specifics. The specifics being a lot of romance, erotica pornography, self-help and general tosh. Men are better but not by a whole lot when it comes to popular genres and authors. Although I enjoy a lot of the historical fiction consumed by men, many books in this genre are the male equivalent of the romance novels that dominate so much of the female market.

So I do not consider it necessarily good or bad to read as it very much depends on what you read. I certainly believe that what I read is a lot higher-brow and respectable than the average reader and this is not simply a matter of taste. There are objectively bad and objectively good books. Most of the latter (particularly fiction), were published before the 1950s and I consider very little of what is published today to be worth publishing let alone reading. I expect the future will agree with me and a lot of these works will be lost to time and largely unlamented.

Now that this extended introduction is out of the way, I can get to the main purpose of the post which was originally inspired by a Twitter thread by Mencius Moldbug which is posted below.

I do encourage you to go through the thread as it is very informative of the nature of the modern reader. You can see from the first post that these people he’s found colour-coordinate their library which indicates they care more about the appearance of their library than the contents. Though I don’t doubt that they have actually read their books because the contents you can see are mostly modern fantasy works like Harry Potter, Twilight and books by authors like Neil Gaiman. There are also typical leftist non-fiction such as Big Mama Obama’s ghostwritten “auto” biography you can see in the bottom corner of the first image. Do also bare in mind also that these people are adults and the Harry Potter books are written for children. Someone might counter that I read the Narnia books again as an adult but I would argue (and could demonstrate), that those children’s books are far more sophisticated than a great many novels written for adults today. I would also be far more likely to read them again aloud to my children than on my own. Another prevalent thread shared by these people is their deliberately barren existence. That is unless they have “fur babies” which normal people call “pets”.

A separate but related article from the New York Times gives an interesting look at our “elite” too. I have posted it below and last I checked, you can still read it. The gist of the article concerns companies that sell pre-filled bookshelves that are catered to certain tastes. The sharp rise in online meetings last year also saw a spike in people ordering from these services so that people could see books behind these people during their meetings. There was also a similar article on Politico.

Think for a moment about the psychology of someone who doesn’t read at all but who wants to appear like someone who does. Again, there is nothing necessarily wrong with people who don’t enjoy reading. Depending on what you like to read, it may be preferable that you don’t bother being literate at all. What is clear from these articles though is that many of the so-called elite are not intelligent, erudite or even smart but they really want you to think they are. If American politicians don’t read the  thousands of pages of legislation, what would compel them to read anything else? They don’t! Of further interest are all the (often ghost-written), books released by politicians which do generally sell well. Apart from sycophants and journalists who read them (but I repeat myself), these books are either pulped or sit decoratively on shelves and remain largely unread. I know this must be so because I have actually read books like this and they are almost uniformly terrible. I have also read that these books are used as a form of bribery through mass buy-ups which makes more sense than people actually buying them to read.

The final example below is of a woman who couldn’t cobble together a tacky bookshelf with a quick trip to a used book store and a cheap shelf from IKEA and instead used a truly ghastly shower curtain. She is not yet an elected politician as of writing but probably will be. Also as of writing, she is still using the shower curtain in her video messages despite getting called out on it.

I will end with an anecdote from Nassim Nicholas Taleb on Umberto Eco; both I should add, are exactly the kind of men our elites pretend to be.

“The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore, professore dottore Eco, what a library you have ! How many of these books have you read?” and the others – a very small minority – who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you don’t know as your financial means, mortgage rates and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.”

The point is not whether you read or not or whether you have a library or not. It is really whether or not what you are presenting is an honest projection of who you are. You can gather much of someone’s mind by their library. In the late Umberto Eco’s case, you have  a library demonstrating vast swathes of ever growing knowledge which was a good representation of great man’s mind. I’ll leave you to ponder what gaudy and fake libraries demonstrate about the minds of their owners.

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