Suppose…that books are natural productions that perpetuate themselves in the same manner with animals and vegetables, by descent and propagation.
~ David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion
Readers would be made amateur naturalists, bookshelves specimen boxes, and libraries zoological gardens. Filmographers would brave malarial uplands and arctic wastes to document the mating habits of memoirs, while lab-coated researchers measure to a syllable what one novel owes another by DNA analysis. Those of us habituated to life amid swarms of half-feral volumes that devour our means and command every domestic surface would be the literary equivalent of crazy cat ladies, arrested on live television (to the cheers of an outraged public) for cruelty to animals and creating a public health risk.