You may have heard that Facebook founder and hoodie-lover Mark Zuckerberg has started a book club. Many have wondered whether the club’s picks could provide those books with the same kind of sales and publicity boost that Oprah’s Book Club (Who had ever even heard of William Faulkner or John Steinbeck before Oprah plucked them from obscurity?) has provided for authors for two decades.
But not me.
I mean, Big Z can do what he pleases on Facebook (If I don’t bat an eyebrow at all that data mining, why would a little book club bother me?), but if I’m taking literary cues from a cultural tastemaker, innovator, and provocateur, I’ll stick with the original, the tastemaker, rapper, fashion icon, and first husband of reality TV, the man who famously said “Sometimes people write novels and the be so wordy and so self-absorbed. I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book’s autograph. I am a proud non-reader of books.”
I hear what you’re saying: how can a man who claims to be a proud non-reader even have a book club? My response? How dare you, sir or madam, think for one second that Kanye would be limited by something as trivial as not having any interest in or relationship with a particular form of media when it comes to making bold, definitive recommendations about the importance and quality of specific pieces of said media?
As Kanye once put it, “If you read books – which I don’t, none at all – about how to become a billionaire, they always say, ‘You learn more from your mistakes.’ So if you learn from your mistakes, then I’m a f***ing genius.” You hear that? ‘Ye doesn’t need to read books to know what they say. He can just feel their meaning, absorbing them through the culture like the world’s most influential, pioneering, generation-defining sponge.
Now, I know I’m just a li’l ol’ blogger, and Kanye West is a heroic figure from antiquity masquerading as a mere mortal/effortless genius/greatest musician of all-time, but I figure a good idea is a good idea, so I pitched it to the man himself. I’ll be honest, I was just hoping for a quick response from Kanye’s publicist’s publicist’s publicist, but apparently I struck a nerve; Kanye demanded a full interview to address the subject of establishing his own book club.
Josh Corman: I gotta be honest, man. I never really expected to hear from you on this.
Kanye West: That’s just how I am, though. If you had expected to hear from me, I would’ve sensed it through the air and been like, “Nah, that ain’t worth my time.” But I’ve never done one thing in my life that people expected me to. That’s why I’m such a significant artist.
Corman: So talk to me a little bit about why the idea for a Kanye West Book Club appeals to you.
West: I just feel like I’ve conquered so much. It’s like, I changed the rap game, I changed the fashion game, my relationship with Kim is literally the single most important relationship in human history. I mean, from an artistic and cultural perspective, I’ve been to the moon. In a spaceship of my own design. That runs on liquid drawn from the fathomless pools of my own flyness. So it’s like, ‘what’s beyond the moon? Other planets? The stars? Gods that aren’t me?’ These questions keep me up at night in my dreams.
Corman: Wait, they keep you up in your dreams? But that doesn’t make -”
West: That’s ’cause of your limited perspective, man. The way you see the world, reality and dreams are two different things, but when you’ve been to where I’ve been – Florence, Paris, the secret restaurant in Jay-Z’s basement where they serve tiger meat – those words are meaningless. Dreams, reality, they’re interchangeable.
Corman: Umm, I can see how that might be hard for me to comprehend, but can you try to talk about the book club idea?
West: Yeah, yeah. Aight, first off, Mark Zuckerberg is one of few dudes out there who’s really been consistently reaching Yeezy-levels out there in the world, but he’s not an artist. He’s not on my level in that way, so for him to jump out there and try to put his Givenchyprint on that part of the culture-
Corman: His what now?
West: Givenchyprint. I call feet Givenchys now. So anyway, it’s like, I can cross over – music, fashion, culture – because I’m an artist. Zuckerberg’s big time, but, I mean, he’s a computer guy. He’s never going to mean what I mean to people in their hearts and their souls, and so people shouldn’t be taking their cues from him. He doesn’t have the vision that I have to influence and inspire people.
Corman: Let’s talk about that influence then. What books would you consider selecting for your book club? What’s a worthy selection in your mind?
West: I don’t read books, and so in some ways, this is one of the biggest challenges of my career. Of anybody’s career. You know when Michael Jordan tried to play baseball? This is like that times maybe two hundred million. I had my assistants bring me books that have had an impact on people according to so-called experts, but I rejected them all immediately. None of what they showed me had any relevance to the vibes I want to put out there.
Corman: Can you give me an example?
West: Malcolm X’s Autobiography.
Corman: You didn’t like it?
West: I don’t read books, so asking me that question isn’t really fair, but my assistant described it to me, and it just made me mad. Like, Malcolm X is an old celebrity or something, but did he ever use his position to change people’s perceptions of what was even possible in the world?
Corman: Actually, he was one of the most influential-
West: I wasn’t finished. I was gonna say, “- of fashion?” Have you ever looked at a fly pair of jeans or some dope-ass boots and thought, “Would Malcolm X wear those?” Uh-uh. You haven’t. And that’s
Corman: Do you not know who Malcolm X is?
West: I’m too busy making history to read about it. That’s my problem with books in general, man. They all about what happened. They stuck in the past. By definition, books can’t tell me anything I want to hear about, because they can’t focus on what I’m focused on: the future. And me. When my assistant was telling me about this Malcolm X book, all I could think was how much better it would’ve been if it was about me. Like, he went to prison and read a lot and gave some speeches. That was his whole life. That’s barely a weekend for me. Being in prison isn’t being in prison like being a celebrity is being in prison. Do you know how many paparazzi are outside right now, waiting for me? And I’ve rapped in front of more people than Malcolm X ever even saw. So this is why I don’t read. Other people’s situations don’t have anything to tell me about what it’s like to be me, and that’s all that matters to me.
Corman: What about empathy?
Corman: Empathy? You know, the ability to share somebody else’s feelings and understand what it might be like to be them?
West: I see your mouth moving, but I don’t speak whatever nonsense language is comin’ out of there.
Corman: (sigh) I’m not sure this whole book club thing is going to work.
West: Why would you think that? That’s what people said about Yeezus, and that album is the greatest of all-time.
Corman: Right, but, I mean, it’s hard to have a book club without any books.
West: Oh, we got a book.
Corman: Really? I thought you said-
West: I said I rejected all the books my assistants brought me, but then I went out and found one myself. It’s called Thank You and You’re Welcome.
Corman: Isn’t that your book? The one that has all of your one-liner philosophies in it?
West: Exactly! A book focused on exactly what matters to me. I’d forgotten I even wrote it.
Corman: Wait, how do you forget that you wrote – never mind. Did you at least enjoy your own book after going back to read it?
West: I didn’t.
Corman: Read it or enjoy it?
West: Neither. That’s from an old version of me. It’s like, that book is Kanye 2.0, and I’m Kanye 75.0 now. I’ve got access in my own mind to a way more advanced, important, influential version of myself. But you don’t have access to that. Other people don’t have access to that. So with this book, I’m at least giving people a chance to experience something brilliant and amazing until I can give them something even more brilliant and amazing on my next record or with my next fashion line. It’s gonna change the world.
Corman: Wow, that’s… something.
West: Something genius? Yes it is. Thank you for saying that. It’s nice to see other people recognize me for what I am.