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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Cover Up Redux

Way back in January I posted about my cover struggles. All's well that ends well, I suppose, since the cover looks great. But in that post I mentioned an article about James Patterson in the New York Times Sunday magazine.

Several weeks later, as is their want, the magazine printed reader reactions to that article, and one resonated so deeply with me that I want to post excerpts from it here. The letter-writer, Joe Claro of Irvington, NY, had been an English teacher for 40 years and took umbrage with the article's criticism of Patterson and his readers for "not measuring up to some vague standard of literary worthiness."

Claro continued: "Why do self-appointed critics allow for popular taste in television, music and movies but drift into almost religious solemnity when discussing books?"

Well said, Joe, and I couldn't agree more.

Years ago I was in a book club whose members read mostly "literary" works. When it came my turn to suggest a book, I was a little out of my element. But I chose Elinor Lipman's Isabel's Bed, about a tabloid blonde who hires a bookish, risk-averse would-be writer to author the femme fatale's memoirs. It's a fun read with lots of inside jokes about writing--and Lipman, who is often touted as a modern Jane Austen, is hardly a pulp writer. But you wouldn't have thought so from the group's reactions. Some went so far as to call it "trash."

But when I asked them about, say, Who Got Mail or Grey's Anatomy--those they all loved.

Like you, Joe, I don't get it.

What IS is that makes people go all proper and still when discussing books but not movies?People expect motion media to be entertaining, and if that's all they get they enjoy the ride. But a book that's merely entertaining--there's something wrong with that.

And yet millions must disagree because even during this recession, romance is still selling well. And the James Patterson, Inc company has another book on the best-seller lists.

I guess the solution is to ignore the bluestockings. Oh--and when you buy one of "those" books, just don't tell your book club.

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