The Physiognomy Of The Literature Reader

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As a result of indeterminate periods of time spent in bookshops, and in other literary facilities, I have come to develop a theory. Rather like the imaginative doctors of the nineteenth-century, who saw an excessively sized pair of ears to be indicative of a criminal character (particularly if sticking out in the ‘manner of a chimpanzee’, god forbid), my theory bases itself on the idea that it is possible to diagnose which genre of literature a person is most predisposed to just by looking at them. A sort of physiognomical suggestion of the reader, if you will.

For example: see that man over there, the tall one, crooked in every manner of the word and with an impressively shaped nose? Yes? Good. You’re most likely to find him amongst the horror shelves, creaking up towards the Stephen King’s and peeling his fingers into the Clive Barker’s.

And what about the lady immediately in front of him, twirling an imaginary lace umbrella over her shoulder with grasping fingers, face wickedly engaged with the anticipated intentions of yet another Mr So-and-so? Advancing towards the classics section, no doubt.

And how about the gentleman in the far corner, crumpled and slightly round about the middle, yet with an air of investigative scrutiny around the eyebrow area – surely a crime devotee, don’t you think?

However, and with much regret, it must be admitted that this theory of mine is no more than a fantasy; this myriad of characters – and that is exactly what they are, just characters – mix only transparently with your average browsing public, existing purely as conjurings from my slightly overactive imagination. In reality, the sweet faced old lady on the bus next to you is just as likely to be transfixed by a grotesque chapter detailing a ritualistic impalement as she is to be involved with the latest cookbook.

Therefore, in order to perpetuate the ingenious (though undoubtedly mad) beliefs of those nineteenth-century quacks, in addition to satisfying my own crazy-yet-brilliant theorisations, I suggest that everybody make at least some effort to outwardly reflect their own personal brand of literature. Fan of the weird and wonderful? Grab a batwing- leather cape. Dazzled by romance? Wander around dim-wittedly, incapacitated by a glaze of love. I myself have settled for wearing an exaggerated look of puzzled disillusionment; for how else can you signify to others that you’re currently On the Road?

Lucy Carroll

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