Sunday, March 13, 2005

Stuff about books, mostly

1. I stopped by a bargain book centre, hoping to stumble upon a great bargain. And I did. For $6.99 (CAD) I purchased Jasper Fforde's Something Rotten, the latest in the Thursday Next series, in hardcover (5.25 x 8 x 1.375 in). For a dollar less (what a bargain!), I could've had the paperback (6 x 9.25 x 1.5 in). I chose to spend the extra buck. Not because I have to have the hardcover (I'm not that kind of book snob) — it's what's between the covers that counts — but because after careful comparison I determined that the hardcover was physically more compact and lighter, and therefore an easier fit in my purse. A function well worth a dollar!

Paperbacks should be standard sized (mass-market-paperback size) and cheap. I should be able to cram it into my pocket. I have no use for "trade" paperbacks with their fancy covers and unique dimensions — if I wanted the superficial extras, I'd buy a hardcover (and I do, sometimes). This is why I frequent bargain bins and remainders stacks.

The trend of trade fiction is part of a vast conspiracy to make reading an event, for book clubs and designated personal time in one's special reading space, equipped with throws and candles. I suppose it does some good for some people to make it special — reading then becomes perceived as something worthy to aspire to. But don't make me take it out of my everyday. I want to carry a book with me (easily, not in a specially designed tote) so I can read standing in lines and on buses. Ordinary people stand in lines and ride buses. Believe it or not, ordinary people read.

2. The Globe and Mail has removed the Books section from its sidebar of sections. When did this happen? I had to burrow into Entertainment to find book stuff. Sure, books are entertaining, but I hate to think that's their only purpose. I hate to think that's how most people view books.

3. I found a slim volume of "fables" collected by Alberto Manguel, The Ark in the Garden: Fables for Our Times. In the children's section. I took the book, at the 20% discount being applied to kids' books that day. Stories by Margaret Atwood, Timothy Findley, and others.

The book was obviously misfiled. These fables are not for children. (The book's title isn't exactly correct on the store's website either.) Unless you are trying to indoctrinate your children into the ways of pinko commies. These stories caused even my liberal eyes to roll.

...six wry, satirical, at times dark, at times poignant, and always slightly disturbing, tales cast in a decisively contemporary ethos ... tackles a tome-like cross-section of the moral, political, social, and ecological issues that face us all.

Except that it's hardly a cross-section.

The story by Rohinton Mistry is my favourite:
"Socialist claptrap and metaphorical mumbo-jumbo cannot shake my belief in common sense," declared the king.

I'm trying to figure out for whom among my friends this would make a great gift.

4. I also purchased a copy of A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It's a childhood favourite of mine, and I want to be ready to introduce it to Helena.

There will come a time she will pay attention to a book for more than 15 minutes a sitting, when the sound of my voice and the text on the page will entrance and transport her as much as bright and intricate pictures fascinate her now. And I'll be ready, with her very own copy, because mine, on the shelf by my bed, is so worn it may not survive her little fingers.

5. I have five fiction books on the go. Until a couple months ago (until Don Quixote!) I was decidedly a one-book-at-a-time girl. Finish one before moving on to the next. It troubles me a little — I feel I'm not giving these books my full attention. Yet it's the only way I seem to get any reading done these days. I lack the focus to devote myself to just one. I hunger for them all.

6. In the course of running errands, I accidentally walked into a paper goods store. I spent well over an hour fondling notebooks. I exercised great restraint and walked out of the store without purchasing anything. But I can't get that little Italian number out of my head. (Paul Auster's notebook love was Portuguese.)

The second time I was drawn into such a store — (It's like they're calling to me. I need a notebook. I don't even use notebooks all that often. Certainly not for notes that warrant creamy pages and supple covers.) — I treated myself to a handtooled, embossed, old-leather–look volume. I don't know what I'll use it for.

And I'm still thinking about that little Italian number.


Ben said...

I was a little bit disappointed with the recent Jasper Fforde. I'd be interested to know what you make of it.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on wanting a book that's easy to carry around. Unfortunately I've heard that there is a new size of paperbacks that is being introduced with hopes of getting rid of the mass market. If I find the article I'll let you know. I haven't seen any of these new size books but I fear the mass market is going away.