I asked Jeffrey Cohen whether he’d trade reading Chaucer for being able to spend time with him.COHEN: No.(laughing) Amy, I'm sitting in this office not because I like people; I don't really like people; I like books and texts. If Chaucer hadn't written his books I wouldn't be interested in him. I wouldn't want anything to do with Chaucer the person.
AB:Who makes books?
COHEN: People, who get transformed by them and lose themselves in them. The person is not the book.
Sure, I get that little thrill of meeting an author when I go to a book signing ... especially if the author exceeds my fantasy of who that author is going to be. Most of the time they don't.
For me the book is different from the person, and the book doesn't necessarily make me want to meet the person or idolize that person, or give me a fantasy of "I could be that person's friend, or pick that person's brain." No, I'm just happy to be in the textual world, and that's enough.
Paging Molière: it's official, I'm a misanthrope.