Are You Suffering from One of These Literary Illnesses?

A recent riotous question—If you could only read one author for the rest of your life, who would it be?—reminded me of all the times I’ve been asked the same about food and drink.

The question is, of course, ridiculous. If you ate “chocolate cake” or “giant pretzels” for the rest of your life, it would be a short one. Your gums would start bleeding, your hair would fall out, and your eyes would bulge. Not a very appealing end.

I feel much the same about reading. If I were forced to read only Jonathan Franzen novels for the rest of my life…Well, I’d rather not think about it.

We all know about anaemia, scurvy, pellagra, beriberi, and xeropthalmia. (Actually, I lied. I have no idea what xeropthalmia is.) But I wondered: What sorts of literary malnutrition afflict the human brain? So I researched the question.

Amisobiblimia: A lack of literature by women

Cause: Reading only what’s written by male-identified writers.

Symptoms: Behavior toward women “is grandiose, cocky, controlling, and self-centered.” Comment “excessively on women’s appearances.” Act as the “law enforcement branch of patriarchy.” Sufferers also may experience thinning of hair, swelling in the ego region, and general whininess. In some cases, paralysis or even death.

Treatment: Obvious.

XenobibliEgra: An absence of books in translation

Cause: Reading only books written originally in English.

Symptoms: Patriotic swaggering statements. Celebrating and identifying exclusively with people who look, sound, smell, eat, and treat their sniffles like you. Belief that your country is the best at literally everything except, maybe, cricket. Sufferers also may experience a decline in peripheral vision.

Treatment: Obvious.

Euroangloliberikia: Reading literature only by Anglo-Europeans

Cause: A steady diet of translations, but only from Western European languages.

Symptoms: Saying that “colonialism wasn’t that bad” and “at least it made the trains run on time.” May lead to blindness, vertigo, and sticking one’s foot in one’s mouth. Like, all the time.

Treatment: Sorry, one book translated from Japanese is not going to save you.

AntiPOEmia: A dread fear of poetry

Cause: Running in fear from anything that looks like a poem.

Symptoms: Belief that language is a fixed and immutable object that has always been this way and always will. May lead to arthritis, bursitis, and pararibulitis.

Treatment: I suggest Zeina Hashem Beck or Layli Long Soldier. But truly, this one is also obvious.

These are all potentially life-threatening conditions. If you feel you might have one, please consult a bibliophysician immediately.

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