Friday, February 27, 2009

Top Five Book Related Irritations

The first half of Robert Jordan's latest series, pictured with an average Jordan reader.

Following a most eloquent review of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein on Squib's page I sullied the comments section venting my annoyance that the monster of said novel is often mistakenly referred to as 'Frankenstein'. Frankenstein is of course the nut-bar doctor who creates the monster, and the monster is the monster, neck bolts, murderous intent, poetry and all.

This widespread monster/Frankenstein confusion has led to many hours blathering on to people who have much better things to do than listen to me blather on about the monster/Frankenstein confusion, so for the good of the human race (or the small part of it forced by social convention to share a table with me at the pub) I thought I'd vent, once and for all, my Top Five Book Related Irritations. I promise from now on I'll only talk about these with my imaginary friends using my internal voice.

Book Related Irritation Number 1 As above - The Frankmeister and the monster: Sometime in the nineteenth century a clever clogs called Mary Shelley went on holidays to Switzerland with a bunch of chums including Byron and Shelley (her squeeze). They hung out at a delightful mansion-type place, and spent the evenings telling ghost stories, drinking mead and playing Truth or Dare. Over the hols this clever clogs Mary Shelley wrote a novel starring a doctor, a Dr Frankenstein, who pilfers graves and sticks all sorts of body parts together to make a 'monster'. This story is called Frankenstein; Frankenstein is the doctor, the monster is the monster.

You (as I) have a moral obligation to hit anyone who gets them confused over the head with a wheel of cheese.

Book Related Irritation Number 2 Quotations in other languages: I'm fully aware that I am linguistically impoverished and am ashamed that I can only speak English, but to all those multi-lingual academics out there, it's not very nice to rub your gargantuan language stores in my ashamedly uni-lingual face with quotations in other languages.

Let's say we're all happily reading a journal article about the cultural significance of intersections between Jane Austen and twentieth century views on cultural materialism. Is it really necessary to break into:
A closer semiotic analysis will show, as Foucault states, that: "Le Francais yibbity yibbity croissant yabbity yabbity en baguette yappity yappity Je suis ici pour."

This is almost always followed by something along the lines of: "Now that we understand Foucault's argument, let us move on". Screw you, snobby multi-lingual writerly types.

Book Related Irritation Number 3 Pages of praise at the start of books: I love a good book as much as the next kettle and I'd be stoked if, say, Graham Greene were to endorse any book I penned ("An intricate and delightful novel," say), but did Louise Erdrich's Tracks have to have 10 pages of praise? The guy who discovered penicillin didn't get 10 pages of praise.

Book Related Irritation Number 4 Series: Series should be banned, or else there should be a universal rule that says the first book in a series cannot be published until the author of the series has finished every book intended to be in the series. Has Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series even reached the half way point yet? Bah, reading series is like joining the army: an unnecessarily painful and drawn out experience.

Book Related Irritation Number 5 The magic bean: Every book-type festival or launch I've ever been to has inevitably led to a Q and A session which is fine until we get to The Question, which is always some variation of: "How do you, [insert celebrity author here], write?"

Sometimes the question focuses on the weight and grain of the paper the writer uses, or type of pen, or the angle of the sun that comes into the writer's writing room in winter, or whether the writer drinks tea while writing, and if the writer feels the position of the handle of his or her tea cup has any bearing on whether he or she writes comedy or tragedy, and whether the time the mail is delivered or the whether the writer grows vegetables or decorative plants in his or her garden makes any difference to the likelihood of getting published, and etc.

If you ever hear anyone asking one or all of these questions at a book event, please pour your drink in their lap then hit them on the head with your wheel of cheese. You have a moral obligation to do so.

Ah, that feels much better. I invite you to share any book related irritations you've been harbouring; it's very therapeutic. I've got my wheel of cheese ready to whack who or whatever irks you.


the projectivist said...

i completely agree with you over the issue of Series.

i'll be contentious and say - i really don't hold much stock in that whole 'short stories' idea.

especially when you've got yourself a whole book of short stories. i find it all just so unsatisfying.

like biting into a Darrel Lea chocolate that looked great in the package, and it's Darrel Lea so you're expecting it to be good - but then it just turns out to be one of those horrible soft-centred stawberry mush thingies.

nobody likes those.
plus you paid a small fortune for it. so you feel ripped-orrrf.


Kettle said...

Excellent analogy, Project! I totally agree with you about collections of short stories. I bought a book of short stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez a few weeks ago and you've put your finger right on the sticky truth about such collections: I've read story after story and am feeling deeply unsatisfied. I'm yearning for a story that covers at least a hundred years and at least a hundred pages.

From now on I'm only reading uncollected short stories ;)

Thanks for sharing your book related irritation. I promise I'll whack the next short story collection writer I meet with my wheel of cheese, in honour.

Miles McClagan said...

Er...that Nicole Richie has a book out still annoys me.

And comedians publishing novels (cept that mad Eric Morecambe one where the comedian gets impaled on his own award)

Mad Cat Lady said...

I always get irritated when celebrities in their twenties put out an autobiography - however, I've changed my mind for Russell Brand, cause this is jam packed with gross unjust behaviour and is very very funny.

(and the glue in the binding is so frequently not very good and the book falls apart in no short order)

squib said...

I find we are as one on these book irritations Kettle

Except, I think you should all LOVE short stories because I write them and I would very much like you to buy the journals in which they are printed. Or I'll eat a whole cheese wheel and cry :(

1. My pet hate at the moment is small print. My eyes aren't getting any younger

2. I find any sort of detritus in the pages of second hand books particularly worrying in a Howard Hughes-ish kind of way

3. I hate pretentious titles you know like 'The Viola Player Who Liked Pomegranates' or the 'The Somnambulist and the Olive Loaf'

4. Anything that is the special pick of some US daytime TV talkshow host

5. Books about relationships and family ties and so on zzzzzzz

Kettle said...

Miles I just did a quick search for a review of Richie's book... Check out this excerpt from the 'novel': "[Chloe] was sitting on her ass in a funky puddle, the perfect metaphor for the pond of loser juice she'd been swimming upstream in ever since drugs had won her over." Gosh that's so awful! You are right to be irked.

I reckon Mr Morecambe would join our happy band of cheese wheel whackers if he were still alive.

Hey Maddy I read somewhere Russell Brand described himself as "an S&M Willy Wonka" - he's a-okay by me too.

I remember hearing one of Ben Lee's songs when he was about 16 or something and he was yodelling on about how hard life was and about all the knocks he'd suffered and how much he'd learned about love from his many, many broken hearts... Yep, twenty year old celebrities are cheese wheel whacking worthy.

And Squib! We are as one with your list of irritations. I hate small print AND shiny paper (who would be evil enough to put them together?); my least favourite second hand book detritis is hair; and those crazy titles... I still think the worst one in recent memory was on your list a few months back, the one about the potato peel pie society...; urgh Oprah recommendations; and families, relationships etc: I tried to read Anne Enright's 'The Gathering' but couldn't finish it... split families, memories, incest, death and a funeral, everyone coming together... Give me Italo Calvino anyday :)

Gosh sorry so long, you all have such interesting booky irritations!