I have a tradition with YiQi that goes back about 12 years from our earnest days as high schoolers desperate to be different and just a little bit eccentric. Through thick and thin, rain and shine, we have gone together to bookstores to wander and read book descriptions to our hearts content.
I've mentioned before that I have a rather guilty pleasure when it comes to cheesy books. As a writer, I should hate them. Screw Danielle Steel and her third grade grammar and large fortune in bestsellers. So what if I haven't even written a book before? I've written loads and loads of other things, and I'm sure I could do better than her if only someone would give me a chance. I mean I think a lot of people would want to read a book about my quirky thoughts and feelings. Right? Of course. Thank you.
But back to Barnes & Noble where YiQi and I entertained ourselves earlier this evening. (You'd think that becuase they pipe in classical guitar music that we'd subconsciously choose to behave in a dignified manner and discuss intellectual subjects like avant-garde cinema or sushi-making. Obviously, we're too sly for that little ploy.)
I was practicing my "Scot-ish broooogue" on a Highlander romance novel and YiQi was finding highly excellent typos in sentences. Somebody actually hyphenated "seldom-seen."
I was morally compelled to buy a book that mentions "nostrils flaring" twice in one sentence (the first reference was direct; the second was sort of implied). I decided I needed something to balance my stupid brain cells with my smart ones, so we went over to the sci-fi/fantasy section.
I had in my mind the kind of book I wanted to read, but was overwhelmed by the selection and frustrated by the necessity of looking at each book's binding to see if the title/binding art was appealing enough to get me to pick it up and look at the back descriptions. This was all YiQi's fault anyway. She forgot to bring me Coraline, which I had planned to read this weekend. :)
I want to make it quite clear that I do have principles as regards fantasy/sci fi, just as I do for romance novels: I don't read Robert Jordan, and I don't read any book whose cover portrays scantily clad women riding dragons.
Maybe I shouldn't lump the two together. Robert Jordan (may he R.I.P.) wasn't so very bad. His adventures just exhausted me. First, they found this one thing or person, I can't even remember. Then they had to spend 200 pages finding some other thing or person. They go to some inn and eat good food and listen to stories. Another 600 pages later and they're still traveling somewhere for no reason. At least Bilbo Baggins was trying to destroy the One Ring the whole time.
Another rule I have for reading sci-fi/fanasy, although less important, is to be sure that I don't have to sound-out more than one word per sentence. Dune broke this rule on multiple occassions, but I already was too invested in the outcome by then to care. I also despise writers who just replace perfectly reasonable nouns with random, madeup ones to sound smart.
E.g.: "in the middle of Kuth fastness of Habrigure" (Seriously. "Fastness" was a noun used on the backcover of a book we read today. However, it could have been a typo for "vastness." It was the same book that hyphenated "seldom-seen.")
Since I'm not a prolific sci-fi/fantasy reader, I had little knowledge of authors or series. Too many of the books I picked up had that awful cop-out of getting an author's friends to provide quotes about how great the book is. I hate this. Who the hell is Joe Thomas, author of "The Valiserlaifhg of Kathugurh" anyway?
And why should I take his word for a book's value? After all, if the author can't even get a Publisher's Weekly review for the back, then it can't possibly be worth $8. Yet, this evaluation is complicated by the fact that "Girls With Swords and Magic Powers" book may be the first in a series of 15. Isn't this economic evidence of people liking it? Perhaps, it wouldn't be so bad?
I balk at buying books without knowing whether I'll like them. I also grow very attached to every book I own, whether I like it or not. (I've only thrown away Tender is the Night, and in my opinion, that was an unusually terrible book. For the record, I did not throw out The Old Man and the Sea, even though I could barely finish it for being bored off my bum. Other books I don't need I turn in for credit at a used book store or donate to charity or the library.)
Most of the time, I rely on the library to help me save my bookshelves from further crap infestation. Yet, you can't get good cheesy fiction in the library. Libraries' paperback sections are usually relegated to true crime paperbacks and stories about teenagers with cancer (and of course, my donations).
But, eventually, I found two cheesy books and one semi-smart book, so I suppose I'll be ok. I had to whittle these choices down from five books and I kept finding more along the way. I really am greedy in bookstores. I've decided that when I retire, all I'm going to do all day is hang out at the bookstore and read whatever I want. ::sigh:: It's a lovely dream.