Friday, March 05, 2010

Can't Count This?

During the first week of school, I visited Faulkner Guy's office to chat with him and see all the great books, posters and games he picked up during his winter vacation in the United States. During this visit, I "read" an intriguing book titled Zoom by Hungarian-born illustrator Istvan Banyai.

The word "read" is in quotation marks because Zoom is a picture book in its purest form. No words whatsoever. The concept is a camera that zooms out and out and out. I hope I'm not spoiler-ing when I tell you that the first image is a close-up of a rooster's comb and the last image is outer space.

Right before I left, I rummaged for a pen in my bag. "Who's the author of Zoom, again? I need to add this to my list."

Faulkner Guy gave me a puzzled look. "Your 'books read' list for the year?"


"You can't count that!"

"Sure, I can! It's a book, isn't it?"

"It doesn't have any words."

"But it's cool! The coolness factor makes up for the wordless factor!"

"You can't count a book that has no words. You read it in about 5 minutes."

The argument ended because I had to go to my Intermediate Conversation class, but it still rankles. Gertrude Stein famously said "A rose is a rose is a rose," but I'm sure that if she'd been thinking clearly and soberly that day she would have said "A book is a book is a book."

I didn't add Zoom to my reading journal. Not yet. Maybe Faulkner Guy has a point. It doesn't have any words, so I didn't really read it.

Of course, I didn't "read" (or "re-read") Great Expectations last month. But it has words which the entirely crushworthy Hugh Laurie read so engagingly.

What about my reading list? Do I really mean "books read" or "books consumed"?

Am I too eager to inflate my totals and reach triple digits by December? Am I too greedy about wanting to add another international author to my reading stats?

Last evening, I discussed this with Alex from the Cracked Spinz book group. After listening thoughtfully and asking a couple of questions, he reminded me of the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words and said that I should certainly count Zoom. Of course, he was in the process of admiring my bookshelves and picking out a few to borrow, so was he truly objective?

I've decided to take this reading experience and put it to a vote. Shall I count it or not? Who's right -- Faulkner Guy or me?

I suppose if I get no comments at all, then that counts as wordlessness -- which, given the nature of this debate, might be interpreted as one for my side. Take that, Faulkner Guy!


Anonymous said...

I think it absolutely goes on the books read list. Books consumed. It is in book form and the author conveyed some sort of meaning that you interpreted - isn't that what us ESL teachers are always emphasizing, it's your ability to communicate meaning, not accuracy that is important. :)

Books eaten for lunch? One.

Anonymous said...

Time shouldn't count either. It only took me one subway right to Bundang to read The Potato Peel Society book, but does that count any less than the two months it took me to get through John Iving's Until I Find You. I don't think so.

Eva said...

You're right! :D

I read The Arrival, which is an incredible book by Shaun Tan that doesn't have any words. And I definitely added it to my Books Read list. I read three photography books last year, which were mainly photographs with just a few captions, and I included them too. Otherwise, how would I remember that I'd read them that year?!

Although, I must say, I'm not tempted to rename it 'Books Consumed,' because that verb sounds stronger and altogether so much closer to what I do with books.

Jeane said...

Maybe you could call it "books absorbed". I think you should be able to count it! Especially for the coolness factor.

Robin said...

I've struggled over the years with the same count it or not to count it. ZOOM counts! It definitely should go on the books read list. It's a wonderful little book (isn't there a sequel called Re-Zoom, or am I making that up?), and I used it for a favorite writing lesson in the 6th grade.

Care said...

YES! Yes, count it, YES, of course.

Stacey said...

Since you "experienced" the entire book, I say, "Count that sucker!"

I completely understand your question about this, though.

I always debate whether to count books that I totally skimmed, or nonfiction books containing entire chapters I skipped because they contain information that does not apply to me.

A reader's life is a hard slog, ain't it?

Heather J. said...

I say definitely count it!

Bybee said...

Thank you all so much! Onto the 2010 list it goes!
I knew you knew this book. Thanks for your input.

I like how you couldn't hold your convictions to just one comment. Yay and you're absolutely rtight about the ESL teacher thing.

Good point about the photography books. I'll tell Faulkner Guy what you said.

I like "books absorbed" better than "books consumed". Thanks.

So that's a "yes" vote, right? lol

Only other readers/bookworms can understand what we go through..although Faulkner guy is a bookworm...but that nickname pretty much sums it up, doesn't it.

Heather J.
I forgot to tell you that I loved your interview. Thanks for voting!

Eva said...

Stick it to him! lol (I bet he and Tuffie would be great friends.)

Bybee said...

How did you know? Tuffi is constantly threatening to quit me and go shack up with Faulkner Guy.

Kathleen said...

It definitely counts! Books can be read or consumed. There are too many wonderful and thought-provoking graphic novels out there that have very few words that wouldn't be counted if they have to be "read".

Mandi said...

You can tell Tuffie that I said to count it. When I did my 200 books project, one of the books was the 1500 page+ collection of George Orwell's essays and one was the heavily illustrated 80-ish page "Sleeping Beauty".

I think a balanced list is important (definitely shouldn't be all YA titles) but there is some leeway for interesting, unusual, and short books.

Anonymous said...

I think you can count it as a book read.

What did you think of Zoom, btw? My parents own it and I used to love to flip through the pages when I was younger, I haven't for years but I remember that I thought it was really funny: how it goes into detail with every page you turn.

Dani said...

COUNT IT! It's not like you're getting paid-per-book...this is YOUR list and you should be able to count what you like...