It’s Festival Of Books Week here on the blog, and that got me to thinking. I write often about books and fawn over them as if they are caramel-covered sex puppies on a perpetual Disney Vacation. To hear me tell it, there’s nothing more wonderful than a good book.
All truly great festivals have a bit of a dark edge to them, though. Sometimes it’s a tent with two-headed cats, sometimes it’s a puppet show getting top billing. So I figured this was as good a time as any to talk about the aspects of books I just really do not like at all.
5. Chunks of the sequel at the back
So there I am, motoring through a really decent read and enjoying the submersion in the Otherland of the author’s invention. Every so often I’ll check the remaining pages and derive a bit of comfort from seeing the ungrayed progress bar on my Kindle or the stack of papers folding over into my right hand. Pages that say “you have more!” And then…I don’t. I don’t have more. I have the first three chapters of a book that will be out in seven months. It’s sort of like that time my dog ate half my dinner when I went to answer the phone.
4. Characters with similar names
I don’t generally think of myself as a stupid person. But when I’m reading a book with a lot of characters we meet only briefly, I can get thrown pretty easily. This is especially bad in those Casts Of Hundreds mysteries where the detectives spend a page and a half on new people every whipstitch. It’s really easy to mix up Annie the nurse with Frannie the babysitter.
3. Dust Jackets
They’re like bras in the wrong size, like trying to cut with left-handed scissors. Just looking at them they’re fine and pretty and harmless. But once you pick up the book to read it the jacket makes crinkly paper noises, slides out of your grip and gets little ragged tears along the bottom edge. Nothing ruins the sensual pleasure of reading like a dust jacket.
2. Pretentious Authors
So you wrote a book. That’s an accomplishment and you should be proud. It is NOT, however, conquering Britain, inventing synthetic blood or curing hangnails. Stop expecting the world to treasure you as some rare butterfly of the arts.
I used to be crazy in love with bookstores. There’s nothing like browsing the stacks for new (and old) friends. My husband and I spent scores of Friday nights haunting various bookstores and kicking off the weekend with plastic bags hanging heavily to the floor with the paperbacked fruits of our carousing. It isn’t that way anymore. I suppose you could blame ebooks (most people do) but I still maintain they are the solution to a problem that was created by Big Box retailers a good decade before e-readers arrived on the scene in a prominent way. It didn’t seem like that big a deal when Davis-Kidd moved a couple of shelves out of the way for the big cart that had windchimes and scented candles. There was still plenty of store with plenty of books. And it didn’t seem too ominous when Waldenbooks stopped carrying the complete works of authors and instead stocked a dozen copies of writers’ latest books.
And now the bookstores we have left are more like tony jumble sales. You can buy board games, stuffed animals, chewing gum and the latest Steven King novel. So I stick with my Kindle. Granted, it’s not quite the same. And granted I have to make a special trip someplace else if I want toffee squares or lavender-scented beanbag neck pillows. But I sure enjoy being able to buy actual books to read.
Bonus Round: Out Of Print Books
How can you kill that which has no life? How can you hate something that doesn’t exist? I tell you this…when a book you love goes out of print it’s like you’re back in the old country and your neighbour has emigrated to the United States to be lost in the distance. Sure, you know the fellow is out there somewhere doing what he does. But you have no access to him other than the fond memories of the time you spent together, and those memories grow fainter by the day. I’ve spent the last 29 years looking for a copy of Heidi Grows Up. Until it came back in print last Halloween I spend a good decade trying to find a new copy of Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula since I’d given away all the previous copies I’d bought over the years. There are others I’ve had to hunt down, and God Bless The Internet because it’s made the truffle hunt quite a bit less muddy. But it’s still sad when you realise just how impermanent any story can become.