Having followed her delightfully snarky LRB essay on the problem with MFA programs with this Guardian piece on drunk book-buying on Kindle, Elif Batuman is well on her way to becoming my favorite current literary journalist.
How does a drunk person’s library differ from a sober person’s library? There are probably as many answers as there are drunk people, so I can only speak for myself. Here is my personal breakdown of how the symptoms of intoxication correlate to book-buying practices:
1. Lowered attention span. This means I order a lot of free samples. As a former destitute graduate student, I still have a lively interest in free stuff. In fact, free samples were the feature that initially got me hooked on the Kindle. For an entire summer, I read almost nothing but free samples. Sometimes, when I had particularly enjoyed a free sample, I considered buying the book. I gave a lot of thought to these decisions, but invariably ended up just ordering another free sample.
2. Poor short-term memory. This means I usually don’t remember to buy the book the next day, either. Also I "buy" a lot of huge Victorian novels, which are free, lose track of the characters’ names, and never finish them.
3. Sentimentality. I am a sentimental, rather than angry, drunk. One night, having coerced the cat to sit on my lap, I proceeded to read free samples of four different memoirs by scientists who form unlikely and ultimately tragic bonds with research animals.
4. Decreased inhibitions. Until technology empowered me to order books while drunk, I didn’t realise the scope and diversity of literature that I wasn’t reading purely out of embarrassment. To name just one genre, many off-colour books that were recommended to me over the years by boyfriends and crushes have now found a home on my Kindle: Marcuse’s Eros and Civilisation, Miller’s Sexus, Plexus, Nexus, Dworkin’s Intercourse (I’m not making that up), Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (that one, published in 1748, is actually great, and free).
5. Impaired judgment. I order a lot of books that I’m just clearly never going to read without the help of substances I don’t abuse yet. Example: Phenomenology: A Very Short Introduction.
It’s Saturday. You have nothing better to do than go read the whole thing.