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April 15, 2007

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Somewhere, There's an Aphorism Just for Me

After seeing Life of Pi yesterday on the shelf, picking it up for the nth time, and perusing the dust jacket, like always, I thought to myself, “I should get this book. It has been recommended to me by many readers I trust. It won the Booker Prize. It sounds like a rollicking good read. It meets the page 69 test.” And then I put it back on the shelf. I’m still not sure exactly why, but I think I’m getting closer to an answer: I hate the cover. The illustration makes me unhappy, the fonts make me retch, the color offends me. It is an aesthetic aversion for which I can offer no defense whatsoever. None. I just gotta confess. It’s irrational, I know. I’m depriving myself of cultural delights, I understand. But I think something about that cover makes me really not want to read that book. Anyone care to make a similar confession, or am I the only insane one here?

Posted April 15, 2007 at 9:06 | Comments (5) | Permasnark
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Briefly Noted


I have to confess that I have a similarly unfounded prejudice towards virtually ALL contemporary books. The books I read have to be cave-aged, with a protective moldy crust, like the smelliest and most delicious of cheeses.

Sometimes, rarely, I will buy books that are the hottest things going, but I will never read them, unless compelled by book groups or other external forces. (The last new lit books I read were Rick Moody's Demonology and JS Foer's Everything Is Illuminated, both group picks. When my turn to pick came -- and it never actually came -- my selection was Andre Breton's Nadja, which was then approximately 75 years old.)

This leads me to miss out on good stuff. I finally read The Corrections in a depression-induced bed rest last fall, a good six years after publication, and found it marvelous. (It helped that one of the characters was a depressed overachiever living in Philadelphia.) But ultimately I don't mind that much -- it keeps me focused.

Strangely, there are three exceptions to this rule. 1) Poetry. 2) Academic books. and 3) Anthologies. The occasional nonfiction book creeps in as well, like Blink, The Year of Magical Thinking, or Freakonomics. It's really novels and political books, which is most of what the chattering classes talk about in the way of books most of the time, that I find myself consistently steering away from.

I hate the cover of Life of Pi too. And I've had the same experience, feeling like I should read it, I would probably like it, but for some reason (and maybe it's the cover?) I just won't do it.

Posted by: LPS on April 15, 2007 at 10:31 AM

You should read Max and the Cats by Moacyr Scliar instead, which is also about a boy trapped on a boat with a tiger or two. (It's still a somwhat open question whether Martel plaigarized Scliar or simply took Scliar's premise as a jumping-off point for his own novel.)

Personally, while I do read a fair number of contemporary novels, I don't read Booker winners. :-)

Moacyr Scliar! What a name!

Per a more recent post, I recommend M. John Harrison's "Light" as a great substitute for the contemporary fiction you're lacking. It's science fiction, but of the most interesting, literary bent. No tropes.

And re: the book cover thing, I agree, Life of Pi's doesn't do it justice. Totally could have used a Jon Gray cover.

P.S. Just discovered Covers, a super-slick site entirely dedicated to book cover design. Awesome.

Wow - a book that I've read that you haven't! I wasn't sure it would ever happen :) As a side note - It wasn't that great so you're not missing much.

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