Thursday, February 02, 2006

Doing My Homework #3: Fear and Loathing in the Bookstore

On the Questions thread, Paul asked:

What popular books do you loathe so much that your soul winces when you are
asked about them?

Tuesdays with Morrie.

I know that people love it. I know that they looooooove to give it to other people as a gift. I know that it must have something valuable in it because people keep coming back for it, but for the love of all that is chocolate, make the insanity stop!

It jumped back on my bestsellers list this week.

Yes, that’s right. It’s been out since October 2002, but now it’s back on the bestsellers list to taunt me with its presence.

Doesn’t everyone who wants this book own it already?

That said I realize my opinion is not the popular one, nor is it the most monetarily pleasant as far as the bookstore goes, so I keep my mouth shut. We all do. There is a general loathing for all things Morrie at my store, and after we sell another copy it all comes out.

“Who the hell is s/he going to give it to? Do they live in a cave?”

“Maybe they just learned to read.”

“Just watch the Lifetime Movie, bucko. It won’t take as long.”

And so on and so on. We wait for the customer to leave the store, of course, and we make sure no one is around to hear us. We realize that everyone has their own reading tastes, and most of our contempt stems from Morrie always being there. In large quantities. Quantities that become even larger over Christmas and Easter.

Someone at the company looooooves Morrie and obviously doesn’t have our problems.

As for other books, none reach the levels that Morrie has inspired with the exception of Melville’s Billy Budd, a book whose mere mention causes me to apologize to any customer who has to buy it.

Customer: I’m looking for Billy Budd.

Me: I’m sorry.

It’s either that or scream, “Dear God, Why?” which I’ve found weirds people out.

Weirding people out does not translate into book sales.

For the most part, I don’t form an opinion either way about bestselling books unless I’ve read them and I rarely ever loathe books I’ve read (exception: see Billy Budd). Occasionally Harry Potter does make me want to stab myself in the eye, but that has more to do with people asking me the same question over and over.

In reference to HP6 on the release day, “Why isn’t this out in paperback?”

In reference to HP6 a week after the release date, “Shouldn’t this be out in paperback by now?”

In reference to HP6 a month after the release date, “No, my husband/wife/daughter/son/cousin-twice-removed said it was out in paperback. I want the paperback. Where is it?”

And so forth.

For the record Harry Potter does not adhere to the eight to twelve month rule when it comes from the transition from hardcover to paperback. The cynic in me says Scholastic will milk you for all you are worth, and that’s why they wait so long to release HP into paperback, in reality they seem to have timed the last two releases to coincide with the Christmas season. I have no idea when HP6 is being released to paperback, if I had to guess I would say possibly this November. I also have no idea when HP7 is coming out, what the title is, or what happens.

We will all probably find out at the same time on the evening news.

How about y'all? Any books that make you want to drive an ice pick through your temple? Please share and know that you are not alone.


Ric said...

Tuesdays with Morrie

Now, required reading in high school, has taken the place of Catcher in the Rye.

Who knew? Certainly not Mitch.

Bookseller Chick said...

A very, very scary thought. I mean all the best to Mitch Albom and his book. Bestsellers like that come along rarely and it's not his fault that his book causes such agony for my crew. Other authors wish that they could cause the testimonal ferverence that his book brings about in his readers, but it's this very rabid "YOU MUST READ THIS" that I get from customres that makes me cringe inside when I sell the book.

A sign of my antisocial side, I'm sure.

Gabrielle said...

The Da Vinci Code. That book haunts me. Plus, I live in Paris, so everywhere I go there are people taking Da Vinci Code tours, all agog. Please, God, make it stop.

Anonymous said...

TWM is now required reading in schools? The apocalypse is surely upon us...or we deserve it to be.

I loathe Heartsongs, the Mattie Stepanek book of poetry. I know, I know, it's wrong to hate poetry written by a child. But I hate it. I can't tell you how many people said to me, "Oh, you love books. I just know you'll love this one!" Mattie, by the way, struck me as a lovely, special kid who deserved all the attention he got. Just not for his poetry.

lady t said...

Let's see-Bestsellers that make me want
to injure my eyes for a hundred,Alex?! Any books by Al Franken for a start-I just can't take political commentary seriously from a guy who used to do SNL skits;I know it's humor but many of the folks buying his stuff don't seem to take it that way.

Also,celebrity children's books-Jamie Lee Curtis and John Lithgow can actually turn out some very nice ones but most of them are either old comedy routines with illustrations(Seinfeld & co)or boring morality tales(Why Madonna got a 7 book deal,I'll never know or want to). Alot of the celeb kid books seem to take up alot of space from those who really deserve the attention.

mapletree7 said...

For me it's not books, it's Thomas Kinkade.

Sodalis said...

Well, James Frey for one. I'm so sick of hearing about that guy! If I see one more person reading that book on the subway, I'm going to scream. I hated that book before the whole Oprah thing and I hate it even more now!

Buffy said...

I agree with Mapletree. If Kinkade was a book...he'd be it.

Catherine of DPP Store said...

Ethan Frome... that was high melodrama. I have known people in real life who have adopeted the theory that they are the heroine in some tragic novel... but I don't give a rat's ass about their drama either.

Nicole said...

Anyone who says Catcher in the Rye or To Kill a Mockingbird is their favorite book. If they're in their twenties, chance are that it's usually the ONLY book they've ever read. Ugh. I'm really glad I skipped high school English (though then sadly I had to read them in a YA Lit class in college).

I haven't read TWM, don't plan to. Didn't he write something else? I think my MIL gave it to me and I read it. nothing special, IIRC.

I swear the only reason The Da Vinci Code was popular because stupid people could follow along since the author seemed to conclude his audience were morons and neatly laid everything out so there was no thinking required as to what was going on. Blech. I didn't hate it, and read it quickly, but it certainly wasn't any different from any number of other thrillers.

Beth said...

Any new Oprah book the week she announces it.
Da Vinci Code
The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman

Just to name a few (since i do the reserves at my library)

Bookseller Chick said...

Oh Gabrielle, for lack of a better word. I'm all for making a buck and piggybacking off the success of others, but that has got to be annoying. Here's hoping Dan Brown leaves Paris alone next time.

Lady T--I hear you on the Franken et al who write political humor. We live in a day and age where people think their humorists have more believability than their newscasters and I think that this is representative of how people treat the political humor books of Franken and others. I agree with the childrens books also. Every time a celebrity comes out with a children's book it clogs up my shelves with five million copies, and taking up space I could be using to face out Diary of a Wombat or anything by Mo Willems. Yes there are celebrities who turn out some good books (Curtis is one of them), but for the most part I feel like this is part of some mid-life crisis that only the rich and self-involved can be partake of, while the rest of us are left going, "huh?"

Mapletree7 I really hate to tell you this, but Thomas Kinkade has books. A whole series in fact. If I was slightly more awake I'd go find the link, but if you want to torture yourself you can go put his name under the books heading on Amazon, B&N or Borders.

Lot's of books.

Sodalis, I'm sorry. I guess you don't want me to tell you that I'm still selling it at a pretty brisk pace. Three went out the door this morning. You might want to invest in blinders, if only to keep the subway police from thinking your a wee bit loony.

Buffy, see my comment to Mapletree and live in fear.

Catherine, oh hell yes. I hear you. Ethan Frome. Great Expectations. Anyone whose so overdramatic about lurve makes me want to hurl. They should remember that they're called tragic novels for a reason--they didn't end well. Unless this person is dying from consumption they don't get to compare themselves to various tragic heroines of the past.

Nicole, he also wrote 5 People You Meed in Heaven which was also made into a TV movie. It also jumps on and off the bestsellers list with regularity and makes me want to hurt myself. I did enjoy the satire, "Five People you Meed in Hell," though. Good stuff. The Da Vinci Code is popular because of time, place, and damn good marketing (something the same editor couldn't pull off with The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks, or whatever his name is). It was a book that was so simply written, but seemed to contain a lot of esoteric knowledge, that people did feel they were getting more out of it. Was it the best novel ever written? No. Was it entertaining? Yes, but I would take Katherine Neville's fabulous The Eight over it any day. Some anthropology student really needs to study the phenonemna of HP and Da Vinci Code and try to figure out why they exploded like they did.

Beth, I sold so many copies of Friedman's book over Christmas that I sold out. I can only imagine the craziness that Oprah books create in the library. Hang in there, girl, and start taking a flask to work.

Ms. Librarian said...

I hate anything by Ayn Rand. I'm not going to comment on what I think of the books themselves. What I hate is having a guy -- and it's always a guy, usually on a date -- try to convince me that this book is a gift to humanity, and that I should immediately run out and read it. Do they take 'no' as an answer? Of course not. They are so pushy that you just have to walk away from them to get them to stop. I can't tell you how many dates have turned bad on me because of Ayn Rand!

Wendy said...

I can't tolerate Charles Dickens - which I'm sure will get me drummed out of the Librarian Corp someday. Don't get me wrong - I think Oliver Twist is a good book - for the first half. I have a low tolerance for melodrama, and Dickens excelled at it. Of course, the man wasn't stupid and knew his audience.

I've never read them, but I'm sick of teens stealing my copies of A Child Called It and The Lost Boy. I checked yesterday - once upon a time I had 7 copies of ACCI and I'm now down to one.

But I'm not bitter.

Craig Clevenger said...

Without a doubt, "The Da Vinci Code." I wrote a review of it for a weekly paper a while back. All I did was sample two paragraphs from "Da Vinci Code" and mix them into three paragraphs culled from soft-core porn books by 'Anonymous,' then asked readers to tell the difference. Nobody could.

Bookseller Chick said...

Ms. Librarian, I hear you loud and clear. I had a male friend who loved the Fountainhead and kept talking about how he identified with the main character, right up until the part where the main character rapes the female lead. Suddenly he's asking me if Ayn Rand hated all other women or had a bad view of her sex. Soured the whole book for him and made me laugh. Any guy who pushes Rand without looking at her subtext with women is cluuuueless, or scary.

Wendy, I hate Dickens too. I'm slightly tempted to read the Bleak House because of the BBC special, but other than that he does nothing for me. He was writing soaps for his time period, melodrama was a must. Personally, if I want melodrama I'll go hang out with my actor friends; I don't need to get it from a book. The Child called It series is a mystery to me too, mostly because young teenage girls seem to love it, buy the whole set and then bring their friends in to buy the whole set. When did we become obsessed with other people's screwed up lives and why?

Craig, do you have a copy of that article, or a link? I think I would love to read it. Dan Brown doesn't deserve awards for his prose, that's for sure. His word choice, like that of Patterson and others, is meant for speed and comprehension and that's all.

Lisa Hunter said...

I used to hate Dickens too. I could never get through any of his novels. Then a boyfriend suggested we read Tale of Two Cities aloud, one chapter a night, the way the book was originally intended to be read. It was riveting.

I think the difficulty is that his novels were serialized, and don't have the plot progression we're used to. It's sort of like watching the entire season of a soap-style show on DVD. But if you try reading it as a serial you might like it much more.

Bookseller Chick said...

Lisa, I'd read that somewhere, and I have to say that seeing Bleak House serialized on OPB (the BBC version) has made me reconsider Dickens. Maybe I'll give him a try again.

Craig Clevenger said...

Here's a transcript of the original:

As well as a longer piece detailing what drove me to write it in the first place:

Yeah, the bile still backs up to my neck when I think about it.

Ms. Librarian said...

Last year, I thought I'd try Dickens again. Since I hadn't read anything by him since 8th grade, I thought maybe since I had (theoretically) matured, I would see more in his work than I had the last time.

So I read Great Expectations again. What a depressing book! Poor old Pip is living under a delusion all his life, and finally settles down to a life of mediocrity once he finds out he doesn't really have "great expectations." Ick! I read novels to get away from real life, not to relive it!

Bookseller Chick said...

Craig, thank you! I'll take a look at them as soon as I can.

Ms. Librarian, Great Expectations left me with the same feeling. I just wanted to slap everyone and yell "Snap out of it already!" I'm going to give Dickens' The Bleak House a try because the BBC/PBS show has sucked me in, but I am wary, very wary.

writerwoman said...

Love the comments! I think Mattie Stepanek was a good kid, but I harbor a nasty secret suspicion his mom wrote the poetry.

I like "A Christmas Carol" by Dickens. He was a journalist, and this is by far his most straightforward, tightly-written work. Lots of delightful, wry humor.

Ray Romano's children's book and the Hank Zipzer series by Henry Winkler are also delights in the celebrity book category. They are really good books.

Have to disagree on "Mockingbird." I was a lot like Scout when I was a child. I loved the book, and as an English major, yes, I've read many, many books.

I don't like "Pride and Prejudice" or "Sense and Sensibility." Nothing against Jane Austen, and I appreciate her literary contributions, but these particular titles managed to bore me silly.

One of my perennial favorites is "Jane Eyre." I think Charlotte was a better writer than Emily. Can't stand "Wuthering Heights." I don't like any book that forces me to keep the Cliff Notes family tree handy to keep all the characters straight.