May 20, 2013
Eleven tactics to keep your reading choice a secret
by Dustin Kurtz
Over at the Literary Saloon Michael Orthofer discusses the secrecy with which the Nobel committee must read over the works that have been nominated, lest the names of those under consideration leak out. The list of nominees is down to five at the moment, but the committee strives to keep those names close for fifty years, presumably until those who were considered but not chosen are beyond the point of aggrievement or embarrassment or life, generally.
Orthofer suggests that such secrecy must be growing more difficult, and that unless surprising care is taken, booksellers or translators could well discover which names are among the five, as may have been the case with early rumors about Mo Yan last year.
He even suggests that anyone spotting members of the committee on the beach this summer would do well to note what they’re reading (because of course members of the Swedish Academy are only a small step below Eurovision contestants in their celebrity in Europe, constantly being photographed topless on the beach by unscrupulous book critics.)
Well we at MobyLives feel that nobody should have to endure that sort of surveillance, whether it be in a sexy Swedish beach bungalow (goosebumps and rocks and herring are sexy, right?) or on the New York subway (though the Underground NYPL tumblr is really so great). With that in mind, here are eleven tips and tricks to help hide your reading choice from nosy photographers.
Here we have the Thigh Warmer, the simplest tactic, and one of the most effective. Unfortunately some people (including myself, sorry) will take this as an invitation to peek at the text of the book for identifying clues. You may need something more drastic.
This maneuver, the Toddler, is useful to let others know that this book is indeed not meant for them, but could be more effective at hiding the book’s jacket. It lacks subtlety as well, which can be a problem. There is a better technique …
… The Fetus. Perfect. Notice how natural and relaxed our model looks, while still keeping his reading material a secret.
Sometimes simple postural tactics aren’t enough. Fortunately there are a variety of out-and-out tricks you can employ. This one is risky but subtle. Keep a small book—nothing you’d ever really want to read— tucked inside your actual reading material. Observers will ignore the outer book, thinking it the ruse. This maneuver works better if you can somehow keep from gloating about your cleverness while you perform it.
Wait? What’s over there? Classic misdirection. This one is most effective if you periodically bellow “BEAR!” while sitting on that subway car.
The Flash. By keeping the book in constant frenetic motion you’ll stymie photographers and also probably your inner ear. All worth it in the cause of secrecy.
Sometimes sitting on a subway car or a Swedish beach is not an option. What’s a standing reader to do? Try the Keepaway. This alone is ineffective at hiding the text of your book, but paired with a few unshowered days it usually does the trick.
The Stand. Quite effective at keeping your book hidden from eyes. Less effective at keeping it hidden from the the microfauna on the subway floor. Also why would you stand on a book, you monster?
The Innocent Bystander. What, that book over there? Oh no, it’s not mine. Never seen it before now. Looks terrible. I wonder who NO DON’T TURN THE PAGE I’M NOT DONE YET.
Sometimes the only way to be truly effective is with the power of tools. Try the Flash. The, um. Other Flash. Put a light on your head. Shine it at anything that looks like a camera or eyeball. You’re totally unseen and also probably pretty popular!
Finally, if it feels like no matter what you do people seem to be staring at you and your book: the Tote. There, now nobody will look twice. Wait, you’ve been using our tote bags incorrectly all this time? My god, you must have looked foolish with those things slung over your shoulder.
Dustin Kurtz is the marketing manager of Melville House, and a former bookseller.