A sheaf of thin wood pulp products adorned by the Alphabet that embodies the glories of human intellect. And a delectable concoction of turgid raisins crushed beyond recognition. As different as chalk and cheese, aren’t they? But both chalk and cheese are white or yellow, porous and sold by the dozen. So if they can be similar, why not books and wine?
Both consist of the finest pickings; the latter from carefully cultivated vineyards while the former from a carefully groomed author’s mind. Rotten grapes are thrown into a rubbish heap just as clichéd ideas are discarded at once. Handpicked grapes and freely picked inspirations are collected in vats and plot outlines respectively.
Now follows a crucial stage; the chosen berries are trampled to mush by qualified feet while the writer’s requests and suggestions are trampled over by ruthless editors. Microsensitive tastebuds determine the quality and exquisiteness of the young wine while excerpts from the novel are mailed off to various important (and unimportant) fellow authors and critics for comment. Favourable opinions from the respective party seal its success while not-so-gentle criticism seals its doom even before its public release. And Ah! Adulteration. For greater profit, winemakers may add an inferior brew to the volatile mixture while everyone in the publishing house, from the managing editor to the boy who delivers tea, may, fancying himself a writer, add a few nonsensical and plagiarised subplots of his own. Whatever the resultant product may be, it is now ready for packaging.
Anxious brewers will leave no stone unturned in finding the bottle which even comes close to deserving the honour of containing their wine, while anxious publishing heads will scout the market for talented jacket designers who will come up with a monstrosity of abstract art that may or may not have anything to do with the subject of the book.
The bottles of wine will then be filled, sealed and sent off to age in cold underground cellars while the books will be printed and sent off en masse to prominent bookstores to await their day of release. They will have been labelled with names such as ‘The Inheritance Of Loss’ and ‘Yves de Reims 1842’ to confound the unsuspecting consumer. Suddenly, the market will seem flooded by the Next Big Thing: – pompous socialites will ooh and aah over tasteful subtleties which they for the life of them cannot detect, while some obscure literary personality, who can make no more sense of the tome than you or me, will sensationally release the book. Phew.
After the public has been given enough time to forget the senselessness of the book, the optimistic publisher will reprint it with a ‘centennial edition’ or ‘collector’s choice’ sticker on its cover, hoping against hope that subsequent literary monstrosities produced by the aforementioned author will have reminded the reader that the first one wasn’t so bad after all. Breweries will excavate the musty old bottles as soon as they have matured enough to be labelled ‘vintage’ and the compulsive fine-diner will have to gulp down the evil smelling goo and smack his lips contentedly, all the while wishing he’d stuck to Coke. The liqueurs may be hoarded in rheumy basements where they will rot and be ruined till every last rat has been gassed, while the books will be covered, labelled and placed carefully on a shelf in a tastefully done-up library, there to gather dust for all eternity. The disgusting wine will be remade to poison future generations while the crazy plot will be further convoluted by second-rate authors to make it completely devoid of any meaning.
Wine may range in colour from red to white to any other hue, while a book may range from a shamelessly pink Sidney Sheldon to a black R. L. Stein. Successive consumptions of the same might awaken hitherto undisturbed tastebuds while repeated readings of an appropriately inscrutable work on metaphysics will provide the ‘voracious reader’ with an abundance of quotable quotes. Both have a fixed shelf-life; wine must be allowed to stagnate/mature for the requisite number of centuries before consumption while a book must remain unread for decades before it can be rediscovered and be deemed a classic. Every popular winemaker has a reputation; the vilest of their potions will be praised and a pamphlet-sized piffle of monumental gibberish by a ‘literary giant’ will sweep all the awards (selected by juries whose members have written one-and-a-half books between them. An indie filmmaker will then purchase its rights and make a multimillion dollar movie that will earn more prizes than dollar bills, but that’s another story). A host’s book and wine collection will help the guest decide whether or not he is ‘with it’.
Both books and wines can be enjoyed only in certain conditions; wine bottles must be opened with a subdued pop and poured into shimmering crystal goblets while a book must be opened on stuffy summer afternoons or rainy evenings when there’s nothing else to do but read. Company is important too; sweet spirits must only be shared with that special someone and books can be discussed only with those who appreciate the same things in life as you do.
A good wine and a bad book can both put you to sleep. The style of consumption is king; wines must be savoured sip by sip while a book must be devoured from start to finish. And when one’s cellars and bookshelves have been exhausted, they must be speedily replenished so that one may once again get drunk on words!
L’Chiam, and The End.
* * *
Note: I know little about books and absolutely nothing about wines. My litany above consists of stereotypes only.