Come Out With It | Newberry

Come Out With It

There are those who wonder how someone of my scant years has so many white hairs. I’ll tell you why.

“Description of this strange and wildly beautiful book, of the shimmering, evanescent quality of Sheila Alexander’s unusual prose, is elusive as mercury. To say that it is a sensitive account of pregnancy and the birth of a child is the mildest of understatement. It is that, basically, but the artistry of its style makes it very much more….”

I fully believe that somewhere on this planet, in a location kept secret from Book Fair managers, publishers get together and hand each other awards for how many words they can get onto the endflap of a book jacket without ever once telling you how to sort it. I assume this is why so many publishers print the subject of the book on the back of the jacket somewhere, so bookstore employees don’t waste their time.

What you read above is the entire first paragraph (that punctuation is all theirs) of a slender book called Walk With a Separate Pride. Yes, yes, it does note that the book is about a pregnancy and a birth, but is it a novel? A poem? A memoir? A collection of cartoons?

They do this all the time. How great the book is is always more important than what it’s about. We, all of us, naturally buy a book based on how good it will be for us, rather than any such middling concerns as to whether it’s, say, a book of mathematical formulae for contriving paper airplanes.

“This is a story plucked from today’s headlines! Nothing in Garrett’s book is new to you, but his presentation is so novel as to make you look at things you took for granted in a new way! This is absolutely a book every intelligent American should read!” (I’m reading the endflap. Does that count?)

I like sorting a book even better when they don’t even bother to tell you anything about the book but what OTHER people have said about it.

“As truthful a story as I’ve read! Jane Doe, Tulsa World “The author reaches new heights while exploring the depths of human emotion!” Richard Roe, Entertainment Today “If this is a subject that interests you, this book will fascinate you!” John Smith. Chicago Daily News “So thrilling it reads like a novel!” John Jones, gudbuks/com

That last one is overly helpful by hinting that maybe the book is NOT a novel. This cuts down the number of possible categories a tiny bit.

A trend I have noticed among self-published books is to fill the endflap of the dustjacket or the back of the paperback edition with verbiage designed to make you respect the author. We’ve had a lot of these in lately that read like pages ripped from this year’s edition of “Who’s Who In Vanity Press Authors”:

“Pete P. Petersen grew up on a parsnip farm just outside Manhattan, and helped raise his four brothers and eight sisters after their father was killed in the 1943 rabbit stampede. He founded his first company at the age of 14; going bankrupt at 15, he applied the lessons he learned from this experience into starting another company, which he had to hand over to one of his sisters while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Upon his discharge, he had the idea that would propel him to the top of the industrial food chain, and enable him to publish this book, which draws on his experiences as a military man, and businessman, and, above all, as a man. Now the father of four and grandfather to seventeen, he has time to contemplate all he has accomplished, and produce prose of unmatched mastery.”

This kind of thing can go on to fill both endflaps. I have occasionally given up on these write-ups. I open the book to find out what it’s all about. What I frequently find out is that Pete Petersen wrote the endflaps, too, and is no more informative about what the book’s about inside than he was on the outside.

For Christmas, I was given a book called ”This Book is Literally Just pictures of Cute Animals That Will make You Feel Better.” I thought this kind of title was amusing. Now I think it’s something we should DEMAND,

Add new comment