b Papa Dog's Blog: Books by Their Covers

Papa Dog's Blog

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Friday, January 21, 2005

Books by Their Covers

Here’s one of the many reasons I prefer hardcovers: if you take the simple precaution of removing the dust jacket, people on public transit (or elsewhere) don’t notice what you’re reading and don’t feel compelled to share their thoughts on the subject. If you read a trade paperback, though, it’s right out there in front of God and everybody. If you’re reading a bestseller, there’s no way to hide it. If it’s a cultural phenomenon, you’re screwed. Five or six years back, I was reading Cold Mountain in tpb, and it turned the morning commute into a dispiritingly benign torture. My cherished routine of ignoring the world with my face buried in a book was upset at least once a day by strangers too cheerful to recognise a harmless but pathological misanthrope. Everybody recognised the book. Everyone had just read it. Everyone wanted to talk about how it moved them. “Oh, isn’t it a wonderful book?” some happy florid dingbat inquired. “Gosh, I don’t know,” I wished I was rude enough to say, “maybe if you’d leave me the fuck alone I’d have a chance to find out.”

Today on the morning commute, I finished a book, a hardcover that I’d been nursing in beatific anonymity for a couple of weeks. I had anticipated finishing it in the morning, so I’d brought a second book along for the afternoon commute. I was looking forward to my return trip with a tingle of dread because the book was a trade paperback. It wasn’t a recent bestseller, but it was one that was at least vaguely familiar to any halfway educated person. If they didn’t actually know the story, they’d at least know the general area of its notoriety. I expected at least one wizened English major to interrupt my reading with a banal observation or an unsolicited opinion. I was almost disappointed when it didn’t happen.

Maybe today everybody was as wrapped up in their own little spaces as I usually am in mine. Maybe I was hiding the cover of the book better than I usually do. Or maybe it’s just the sort of book that people don’t want to admit to an excess of familiarity with in public these days. Mama Dog and I thought I’d get the best reactions reading it while holding hands with a twelve-year-old girl. So maybe when Baby Dog is twelve, I’ll dig it out and read it again on BART with her.

Oh yeah. This book.


Blogger RachelleCentral said...

Funny, I prefer paperbacks because they're just handier for carrying around, and easier to read. And I like the way they feel in your hands. In fact, one of the very few advantages of moving back from the US to Australia (can you tell I miss the US?) is that brand new books often have their first run here in paperback. So books that are still in hardcover in the US are in paperback here. (Not the new Tom Wolfe, though, which I bought the other day, despite the crummy reviews.)

7:14 AM  

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