Another rambling entry today.
I like to read. I love to read. When I was but a little youngling, I would more often than not be found reading a book. When we went on holiday, I would invariably seek out the local library and find something to keep me going. My suitcases have traditionally been heavier with books than with clothes (thank God for the Kindle!).
I have my favourite authors, and my favourite books. Friends and family have often expressed surprise that I can read the same book over and again. I will wait in eager anticipation of a new book from my favourite authors. Some authors fall in and out of favour, such is life. Since launching this blog and doing reviews, I have been utterly delighted to find new authors which aren’t well known yet (yet being a key word there – some of them deserve to be huge), and in some perverse way, I’ve also enjoyed reading the really bad books (just like we used to enjoy holding bad movie nights).
When I make my way to work, stuck on the often-delayed train service, I can while the time away enjoying a good story. When I want to relax, and escape from all the pressures of the real world, I love soaking in the tub with a good book.
I love epic, sprawling tales. Love them when they wander off in sequels, prequels, sidequels, diagoquels, parraleloquels and all sorts of nonsense.
I love standalone books. I love short stories.
I love it, as long as I can lose myself in it.
With the reviews I’m doing, I find myself reading stories and books that I might not normally have, and might not normally have kept going with, but can certainly appreciate.
However. Like yesterday’s entry, it’s all personal to me. What I like might reflect a majority, or a minority, but the more factors are considered, the more likely it is to be just me. It’s so rare as to be almost impossible to find someone with exactly the same tastes, who likes exactly the same books, stories, movies, comics, food, etc. Unless that cloning experiment I signed up for a few years back actually worked.
However, just as there are things that I enjoy, that are particular to me, there are also things which irk me. And again, these are also particular to me.
It seems that more and more, books are copying the habits of DVDs and Blu-Rays, with the inclusions of extras. Where these used to be limited to maps and glossaries, now it seems that more and more extras are appearing. I’ve never had a problem with maps, although I’ve never really seen much use for them. Nor with glossaries, tucked away at the back of the book – although I’ve never seen the point of them (surely your writing, through context and usage should allow those phrases to be understood?). I understand the value of these, though.
What I don’t get is writers who include commentaries, or random wafflings in their books. I enjoy useful information – The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, for example, includes a yearly summary of events in the industry, publishings, movies, etc and is accompanied by acknowledgements of those who have sadly passed away, and a list of useful contact information for publications, publishers, etc. I find this to be an invaluable addition, and a main reason for purchasing the title.
On the flip side, I have read books – usually collections of short stories, where the author wants to give a key insight into his or her thought process during the creation of their piece. Again, I don’t mind this in anthology collections, but where it’s something the author has put together, it just seems to be self-indulgent, and as a result, somewhat unsavoury for me. I don’t care what inspired you to write it. I don’t care what kind of mood you were in. I want to read your story and enjoy it. (Yes, I’m going to be curmudgeonly here. Another awesome word.)
I don’t want you to give me a long, waffling ramble about your state of mind when you wrote this piece, or about how you employed a meditative technique. I don’t want to flick through pages of you telling me about your formative years as a retail assistant. I want to read your damn book.
By all means, throw in a brief line or two – a paragraph at most, and I’ll read it. But I’m not so much interested in you. I want your story. When your introductions go on for pages, I feel bored and I feel cheated.
If your book is 250 pages, and 10 of those pages are you telling me about your life, along with a chapters list, an “Other titles by this author”, and whatnot, I will feel cheated that the 250 page book suddenly drops to about 230. Yes, I know I shouldn’t, but I do. If you’ve also thrown on a teaser chapter, I’ll feel really pissed off.
Again. I understand why you do it. DVD commentaries are great, in some cases. Blooper reels, outtakes, deleted scenes, and all that jazz. But in a book, I just don’t like them. I want your writing, your story, to do it all for me. To sell me on you. I want to finish your story with a sense of triumph and be hungering for your next book. If I’m that desperate to find out about you, I’ll go to your website and see everything I want to know (assuming you have one. If you haven’t, then get one).
And please, for the love of God, cut down the damn quotes. One at the start of the book is fine. One at the start of a section is acceptable. One at the start of every chapter is pushing it a bit. Two at the start of the book/section is pushing it. A whole page of them is just ridiculous.
Anyway. That’s me. That’s what bothers me. It won’t bother everyone – I’m sure a lot of people appreciate having these things a lot more than I do. And, of course, I can always just flip over them if I don’t want to read them. But, that’s me.
And I’m a cantankerous old grump today.