In Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies the hero, Adam, is stopped at customs and books are discovered in his luggage. An official tells him:
'Particularly against books the Home Secretary is. If we can't stamp out literature in the country, we can at least stop its being brought in from outside. That's what he said the other day in Parliament, and I says "Hear, hear...."'
I thought of this because I awoke this morning to an anxious e-mail from a friend of mine asking what the opposite of a bibliophile is. Is there any succinct and recondite term for a book-hater? (It turns out that the poor fellow is related to one, and would feel better if he could put a posh name to this oddity).
There is bibliophobia, a dread of books, but that's not quite right as dread differs from dislike. A close dictionary neighbour of bibliophobe is biblioclast, which is somebody who destroys books (particularly the Bible). And then there's the even odder Skoob. This was a tower of books that was burnt in the sixties by a fellow called John Latham. In the sixties this constituted art. Skoob is, of course, just books backwards (and is therefore related to yob and wonk). It's also, oddly, the name of a very good second hand bookshop that lurks under the Waitrose in the Brunswick Centre.
But a book-disliker? Perhaps I could name it after somebody. A great literary character who dislikes books. It may be merely lack of coffee, but I can't think of one off hand.
I might be inclined to coin the term a Callimachus. Callimachus was an Alexandrian poet whose most famous line was 'a great book is a great evil'. However, that's probably just that he liked short books, as do I, so it doesn't really work.
Or maybe a Larkin who once wrote that "Books are a load of crap." Or Bulwer Lytton "We may live without friends, we may live without books;/But civilised man cannot live without cooks."
Or... The problem is that those who don't like books, rarely write down their opinions.
So I'm stuck with Callimachus as my best offer. If anyone can better that (and I'm sure somebody can) put it in the comments, please.
A Skoob tower in Bloomsbury in 1966, photo nabbed from this article.