The Business of Books

I think Cortázar had the last word on the too-many-writers, not-enough-readers problem over forty years ago:

As the scribes will persist, the few readers there are in the world are going to have to change their roles and become scribes themselves. More and more countries will be made up of scribes, and more and more factories will be necessary to manufacture paper and ink, the scribes by day and the machines by night to print the scribes’ work. First the libraries will overflow the houses, then the municipalities decide (now we’re really into it) to sacrifice their children’s playgrounds to enlarge the libraries. Then the theaters will go, then the maternity homes, slaughterhouses, bars, hospitals. The poor use the books like bricks, they stick them together with cement and build walls of books and live in cabins of books. Then it happens that the books clear the cities and invade the countryside…

—Julio Cortázar, from “End of the World of the End,” from Cronopios and Famas.

The books spill beyond the land and fill the oceans, like papier-mâché; the extra ocean water overflows the continents; the newly jobless presidents move to the ships stuck in the papier-mâché, which are now casinos; the world ends.