Friday, March 27, 2015

Real men, ugly jackets and chain bookstores

Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, a novel about lives built around books and reading, contains several lines worth a comment.

Her mother likes to say that novels have ruined Amelia for real men.

I once wrote a newspaper column, somewhat controversial, in which I suggested romantic novels serve a function for women similar to that which soft core porn or even the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue serves for men. They provide an idealized version of the opposite sex. In real life, women are rarely as beautiful as SI and Playboy models and men are rarely as dashing or heroic as the men in fiction. Amelia's mother may be on to something.

You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question, What is your favorite book?

I don't really believe this, at least not literally. Certainly a person's reading can be revealing. I like looking at the bookshelves in people's homes for clues about them. Book choices reveal a lot, but they hardly tell the whole story.

"Finally, a nice-looking jacket is important. I don't want to spend any length of time with an ugly jacket."

When reading a book, especially a good book, I usually close it at intervals simply to admire the cover. I don't know why that is, but it seems to say something about the importance of cover designs, not just when buying a book but also when reading. We like holding beautiful objects in our hands.

From his of view, the only thing worse than a world with big chain bookstores was a world with NO big chain bookstores.

These are the thoughts of the owner of a small bookstore. I agree. Large bookstores may be crowded and impersonal, staffed by people who know little about books. Yet they get a lot of books into the hands of readers, many of whom may never set foot in a small, private bookstore.

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