Come on, spring, I know you can do it. Stop knocking at the door and then running away the second we open it: just come on in and settle down. We promise to dust ourselves off and be all optimistic and cheerful and hardworking again, if you promise to curl up on the sofa and stay a while.
Kim and I had lunch yesterday and both felt like we–and our kids–were in that weird late winter slump, where there’s too much work to do and no energy or enthusiasm left to get it done. After we were done eating our oh-so-healthful-salads, we wandered up to the local bookstore and the weather was gorgeous and we lingered, chatting to random people, and it felt kind of like vacation and I felt suddenly optimistic: “We can do this: we can make it to spring break and then it’s just an easy skip to summer.” I hope you’re all feeling that way today. If not, take a break, walk to a bookstore, buy something junky to read, and get in that mode.
In the meantime, here are some things we talked about at lunch, and some things I’ve been thinking about on my own. It’s light reading which is all any of us can manage right now, anyway, right?
1. So will reading be more enjoyable on the iPad than on a Kindle? And what am I rooting for with this one? The kids and I watched the Apple video that shows you what the iPad can do and of course I was especially fascinated by the demonstration of the new reader. It looks like it does two things better than the Kindle: it mimics the act of turning a page (it looks really cool on the video; I need to see it in person before I pass judgment on whether it feels real or not) and it shows the cover art. That second one is important to me. I think it’s a huge drawback of the Kindle that you don’t see your book cover, that every book looks the same: just words on a screen. Cover art is very important: not only does it pique your interest in a book in a first place, but sometimes it anchors your memory of the book. You see it and you instantly get a whiff of the book back in your mind, whether you liked it or not, what emotions it roused in you.
But what if the iPad reader is a lot better than the Kindle? What if readers in general become much more similar to the experience of reading a book? Do we want that? We’ve already gone on ad nauseum about the future of paper books versus eBooks so I won’t revisit the subject. All I’ll say is: I don’t know what I’m rooting for with this one: a better reader or a bust.
More about covers:
2. I finally have a gorgeous cover design for my next book and realized how much that matters. I was talking to Kim about this whole recent saga I went through with the cover design, and we ended up in a whole conversations about covers in general. Kim wrote about some of the recent scandals over covers that misrepresent books, the most heinous being the ones that feature a white protagonist when the book is about a person of color. I also recently read an article about how often overweight main characters appear miraculously slim in the cover art.
As an author, I’m also concerned about the cover’s tone for my own books: first and foremost, you want the cover to look pretty of course, but beyond that, you want it to attract a readership that will actually enjoy the content and not one that will say, “This is not what I thought it was going to be.” And while we’re on the subject of covers . . .
3. Kim wants to know why there are so many covers with pictures of women’s backs on them–not their heads, not their legs, just their backs and arms. As she put it, it’s a real objectification of a woman’s body, especially since they’re usually partially undressed or at least dressed in something revealing. Kim also pointed out that you never see a man’s cut-off back on a cover. Once she had called my attention to it, I had to agree: it’s creepy. And it was even creepier because we were in the Young Adult section so these books were mostly aimed at teenage girls who already have issues with having their bodies reduced to desirable objects. And on a completely different topic . . .
4. Is it possible to read through an author’s entire oeuvre and find it satisfying? I was thinking about this because I recently read Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge and loved it, then read her Amy and Isabelle and loved it and then her Abide by Me . . . and didn’t love that at all. The talent was there in the writing but the book didn’t come together for me, and I’m guessing I’m not the only one who feels that way since the other two seem to be much better known (an understatement, given that OK won the Pulitzer). It was such a disappointment to finish my stroll through her works with something unsatisfying and it made me think about how often that has happened to me, how often I’ve wanted to read everything some author had ever written because I loved him/her so much . . . and stumbled across a real dud which depressed me. As an author, I’m terrified that my own next book will be that dud. As a reader, I wonder if I’m better off only reading the best-known books by the authors I enjoy. Even now, as I glance at my shelves, I’m noticing Charlotte Bronte’s Shirley and remembering the disappointment of reading that after adoring Jane Eyre and admiring Villette. Even the greats are not immune. Northanger Abbey, anyone?
Anyway, happy spring, everyone!