Who doesn't like to complain? Not me. This week's topic over at The Broke and the Bookish is pet peeves of the bookish variety. Here are my top ten.
Marginalia is hot these days. I've read several articles singing its praises, such as this New York Times article. Sorry, I disagree. Except for textbooks, I don't mark up my books and I don't appreciate when other people do. I don't want to check out a library book and find some unknown reader's scribblings. If you're Alice Munro or J. M. Coetzee, go ahead and write in my books. Everyone else, hands off!
2. Teeny-tiny text
Okay, the eyes are going, but I do wear progressive lens. And I'm nowhere near ready for large-print books. In most books the font size and leading are just fine. But for others you need a magnifying glass.
3. Super-realistic book covers
I'm not a fan of illustrated book covers that look like photographs. Especially when they replace a perfectly wonderful original jacket. Case in point, Harriet the Spy. The original, which I read as a child, showed a pen-and-ink illustration by its author, Louise Fitzhugh. Cut to the late 1990s, when I bought the novel for my daughter to read. The super-realistic cover showed a modern girl who looked absolutely nothing like Harriet! Ugh. Today, I'm happy to say, Harriet the Spy has been reissued with its original cover, albeit in blue not orange.
Ever read a review, blurb, or back cover that gave away too much of the plot? I sure have.
I've worked as a copyeditor, so I know, none better, that it is impossible to catch every typo. Errors slip in and, slippery as fish, they are hard to catch. Still, when I'm reading a published book I don't expect to find more than a couple. Otherwise I begin to think that the book wasn't properly edited, that it's an orphan no one cared about. So why should I?
6. Magazine articles turned into full-length books
We've all read them. The author had a great idea and wrote a magazine article about it. Much applause followed, as well as a book deal. Turns out, though, that the author doesn't have much more to say than he did in the original article. So you read a book that's crammed with filler. This often happens with blogs. A great blog does not necessarily make a great book.
7. Novels with "huh?" endings
Don't you hate getting to the end of a good novel and you're left with all these loose ends, or, worse, an ending that comes out of nowhere? I sure do. I read a lot of mysteries and this genre is especially guilty.
8. Celebrity-written children's books
Madonna. Billy Crystal. John Lithgow. Sarah Ferguson. Kate Couric. The list goes on and on. It seems than anyone who's anyone can pen a children's book. They make it seem so easy. Except it's not. Most children's book authors will tell you how many years of hard work it took before an agent or editor looked at their manuscript, never mind signing them to a contract. To add insult to injury, most celebrity authors books are not very good.
9. Chain bookstores with children's sections crammed with more toys than books
I'm seeing this more and more. My local Borders has a children's section that is packed with toys. And I mean actual toys, not toys packaged with toys (although they have plenty of those as well). The books are shoved against the back walls, almost apologetically. And of course the kids gravitate straight to the plush animals and gizmos and doodads, not the books.
10. Martin Amis and others who disrespect children's literature
In a recent interview the British novelist Martin Amis said only brain injury could make him write for children, adding "I would never write about someone that forced me to write at a lower register than what I could write." Well! A lot of ink has been spilled commenting on his remarks. I'll add that this belief, that children's literature can never be as serious, as important, as worthy, as adult literature is prevalent in our culture. Yes, there are plenty of children's novels that are middling or even not very good. Guess what? The same can be said for adult novels. But the best children's novels certainly deserve the name of literature. I wonder, what books did Amis read to his kids?
Whew! It felt good getting all that off my chest. What about you? What ticks you off?