28.12.07

Things I hate about books

I just finished The Art of Political Murder, about the 1998 assassination of Guatemala's Bishop Gerardi. This could have been a fascinating read, but instead it dragged in places.

What? A murder book that drags? Particularly a "true life" murder? Yes. You see, the idea of good editing seems to have been lost somewhere in the past few decades. This book contained a dramatis personae, but the author felt compelled to reintroduce or explain who the "characters" were at least once per chapter. Had this been edited, the flow would have been smoother and it would have been a better book (as a matter of fact, I started to look for the reintroduction each new chapter!). I know that the author has been a writer for magazines like Harpers and New Yorker, and it occurred to me that this was a reporting technique, as readers need that when a story is chopped up over a period of days, or weeks. But in a book? And Goldman is also a novelist, so someone should have pointed out this flaw before now.

I read this as an ARC, so I can't comment about the final look of the book, but I can bet that the cover will have blurbs. I've mentioned that Thing Two's sister has written a book. She asked me for opinion on some things and I pleaded that there not be blurbs; the readers I've surveyed (ranging in age from 10 - 70+) don't use them and actively dislike them. Her response? It's the booksellers (eg, Amazon, B&N, your local mom&pop) that want them. Readers would much rather have a good synopsis than a blurb.

Even worse than a back jacket filled with meaningless blurbs is a jacket that blurbs previously written works. WHO CARES??? I want to know about this book, even if it's part of a series. I don't care about the earlier books (I would like a listing for the series, in chronological order, to guide my purchasing). Sadly, this is rarely the case. If you can't do this, dear publisher, perhaps the covers could clearly indicate where in the series the book is - the ninth, the seventy-fifth, etc.. I know not every series needs this (Miss Marple springs to mind) but I do know many that don't want to read series out of order (although how one handles series not written in chronological order, like the Narnia or Darkover books, I don't quite know).

I'm on to a clear final book - Exit Music. I know that this one will only explain who people are once, if at all. I know where it fits in the series (I think; the most recent Dalziel/Pascoe wasn't the end despite predictions). Sadly, the blurb is on the front flap, not the back cover. Ah well, two out of three ain't bad.

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