Friday, January 10, 2014

"Well, I bet you thought your little book was pretty clever."

I wonder how one would tell that a conversation with the author had been ruined, given the levels of tedious finger-wagging pedantry to which he appears prone?

I kid... mostly, but come on, that cover was just like a red flag in front of a bull. Seeing just the title on the spine, I had scooped it up hoping for an instruction manual, not a lecture. It was begging for a blog post.

Anyhow, as a side observation, Tamara's Third Law of Used Bookstores is "The enjoyability of a read is inversely proportional to the likelihood of finding it on the shelf." Despite McKay having an inventory that would shame a middlin' city library, you're lucky to find three or four Heinlein or Pratchett books at any time. Florence King? Fat chance. I scoured the shelves on my quarterly visits for years, looking for Fraser's Flashman books in vain, until I lucked into the place the day after someone had apparently traded in their complete set.

That a book published so recently is so well represented on the shelf speaks volumes. Sure enough, the Amazon reviews bear out my suspicions: "This book has the dubious honor of being only the second book I have ever thrown in the garbage, so that no one else would waste a moment of their precious time reading my copy." Ooh-kayy... I'll wait until it's on TV, I guess.


27 comments:

TJIC said...

Read this blog post in my RSS reader, unsure of what blog it was from.

1/4 of the way in, I thought "I have to send this to Tam".

1/2 way in, I thought "this must be Tam's blog I'm reading".

;-)

pdb said...

Unless this book was a detailed, behind the scenes account of the development, deployment and retirement of the SM-62, I'd be very disappointed in it.

Windy Wilson said...

That law you cited is why I don't even bother looking at the free book cart outside the library's used bookstore. I mean, if the library doesn't think it's worth the shelf space to get $1, will I find anything that even my magpie mind finds interesting on the free cart?

I also lucked out one day in a used bookstore when I found Charles Russell's book of illustrated letters, "Good Medicine", and snatched it up like a $100 bill in a crowded mall. How it got there, I don't know; It may have had something to do with it sitting in the architectural section. :)

ProudHillbilly said...

I've thrown really bad books in the trash (gasp!) rather than take it to Good Will or a used book store because I didn't want to stick anyone with my mistake.

Paul from Canada said...

I feel your pain.

I have been looking for the last three Gavin Lyall novels for years. I bought my Flashman and Aubrey/Maturin new because I HAD to read them in order and wouldn't wait.

The problem is that at quality used book shops, you are competing with other bibliophiles, a large number of whom will have similar tastes. Quality shows, and since the supply is limited and sporadic, so is stock.

I am fortunate in having two good second hand book stores in town and an independent book seller that also has a whole second store selling remaindered stuff cheap.

Jon said...

I haven't seem my copies of the Flashman novels for years. Must have loaned them out to someone and never got them back. I hate it when that happens.

El Capitan said...

Looks like that Snark turned out to be a Boojum after all...

Tom the Impaler said...

So it doesn't stand up to the Shakespearean levels of writing demonstrated in Steve Martins' "Pure Drivel"?

Garrett Lee said...

What are your first two laws, then?

Tam said...

I'll let you know when I make them up. ;)

thesouthtexaspistolero said...

From the Amazon description of the author:

"David Denby has been film critic and staff writer at The New Yorker since 1998; prior to that he was film critic of New York magazine. His reviews and essays have also appeared in The New Republic, The Atlantic, and The New York Review of Books."

Well now, that explains somuch...

Rob K said...

I've found a fair number of good things on the free book cart at the library, but they tend to be narrowly specialized things.

I've taken a number of books to ensure that they exit circulation, such as Pascal programming books. I also found a copy of "My Name Is Rachel Corrie" once. I'm still looking for a toy armored Cat D3 to complete the tableau.

Marco Pisco said...

Pretty sure the first sign that a conversation with the author had been ruined would be his arrival.

Gewehr98 said...

I've discovered another problem. Every time I check out a book at the local library, I want to buy a copy for myself after reading it. :(

tailwind said...

Who says you can't judge a book by its cover?

Robin said...

Never read a book by a film critic.

Unless its Stephen Hunter.

Goober said...

Its a good thing you read that, Tam, otherwise, people might think you're mean, too personal, and a ruiner of conversations. Now you can do something about it!

Funny how you're so popular, what with all that personal meanness and conversation ruination.

Jim said...

On the saddest of days, when our fair Tam departs this veil of tears....

.... she'll be buried in a Snarkaphougus.

Me, I'm opting to be mulched.



Jim
Sunk New Dawn
Galveston, TX

Ed said...

Rob K wrote:
"I've found a fair number of good things on the free book cart at the library, but they tend to be narrowly specialized things.
I've taken a number of books to ensure that they exit circulation, such as Pascal programming books."

As part of course work in computer language design, I once had to write a Pascal language interpreter (reads a Pascal program and runs the program on the fly) with extended parameter passing language "features" using a dialect of LISP. That skill itself is so narrowly specialized that it just compounded the misery.

I hope that Rob K does the same for Modula II programming books.

staghounds said...

But it says right on the cover that he's the author of GREAT BOOKS!!

Rob K said...

If I found a Modula 2 book, I would. I might actually read it too. Modula 2 was never as well known as Pascal.

global village idiot said...

My daughter and I went to an open-mic night hosted by our church's youth group leader. It went okay, right up until some moody girl sat on the bar stool and started reading "poetry."

I come to poetry through Kipling, Service, Tennyson et al. Ozymandias is about as far afield from standard meter as I care to get. What this girl was reading wasn't "poetry" so much as...well...drivel.

"Here's another poem about my ex-boyfriend...It's really deep."

Cue Snagglepuss: EXIT - STAGE RIGHT EVEN!

Even our church youth group leader said afterward, "Um, it's our decision whether it's deep or not."

It reminded me what Heinlein said about writing poetry - it's fine, just do it in private and wash your hands afterward.

gvi

Anonymous said...

That a book ................... speaks volumes. Puns are my life; thank you. I too buy dollar books at the library and have more than once bought one and immediately tossed it into the trash; Al Gore springs to mind.

mikee said...

I got all my Pratchett books from Half Priced Books here in Round Rock, Texas, grabbing them one at a time as they appeared on the shelves.

Months passed.

As I realized I had read almost everything in print written by Pratchett, it took longer and longer to find a copy of an unread title.

It was with some delight that the last Pratchett book I bought used was Night Watch, in a hardbound paperback seconded from the local library to the bookstore.

I could not have ordered this better had I tried, nor if I had been in France.

Ed said...

Rob K,
Thank you for the "Modula-2" correction to my "Modula-II" reference. For those wondering what obscure things we were discussing (including the Scheme dialect of LISP):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modula-2

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lisp_(programming_language)

Rob K said...

It wasn't meant to be a correction. I was just too lazy to type II. :)

Will in Bama said...

I LIKE your "Third Law"! In my household the First Law seems to be "The NEED for a book is inversely proportional to the likelihood of finding it on a shelf." The corollary seems to be "Said book will be found when the need for it has passed."