Sunday, 1 August 2010

Ian Fleming and Others

I have been cogitating on what influences persuade one to buy a book; not those who buy on the internet for cheapness, or go by the recommendations of TV celebrities. I am talking here about those people who actually frequent bookshops.

There is so much emphasis nowadays on the look of, and blurb on, a book cover that the real content is often distorted and disguised. Sometimes, I pick up a book by some unknown author and find myself distracted by the one-liners on the back. I can't pretend I am immune to the praises I read and have often bought a book that I subsequently find totally different to my original expectations. So I try to voice the following mantra to myself when in bookshops, "no editor is going to influence me – I know they aren’t going to allow any disparaging remarks on the jacket cover”. Caution is needed and will in the end save disappointment and money. Meanwhile, I mostly tend to rely on word of mouth from friends whose tastes in literature I respect, or a critic I find has similar view to my own; but it is an ideal of which I fall well short. And when it comes to favourite authors, I tend to suspend judgment and will always buy a new book by them. My anticipation is tempered by the knowledge that there is liable to be the occasional dissatisfaction. The cover and bumph on the back don’t influence me on these occasions, no they really don’t!

Possibly I have been influenced by memories of books I read in my youth and my preference has always been for the stylish and understated cover of which Penguin is a particularly good example. Admittedly they often showed the face of the author but the information is a straightforward biography, and the story-line detail is not covered in hyperbole.

Some iconic covers, in my opinion, were the original James Bond books. I admit I wasn't persuaded by these – I just wanted to delve into them as soon they were hot off the press (oh, the excitement of those days), and I did start to read them quite some time before Sean Connery became synonymous with 007, although he fulfilled all my girlish dreams about a spy. I religiously saved up for them or was given them as Christmas presents as each new novel was published. If only I hadn't dumped them during one of my 'hasty' tidying sprees. Ah well....

Other conundrums: how can you expect a book many years old with multiple readers to be in pristine condition (surely a writer wants his book to be read and handled). And why, oh why, do I need to see the author’s portrait – so I’ll know him/her if I bump into them? A book is a book is a book and is for reading, enjoying and hopefully remembering; the special ones always are.

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