by J.D. Rhoades
A few days ago, I was browsing in one of those big chain bookstores when a title on the “staff recommendations” shelf caught my eye:
Two thoughts went through my head, one following hard on the heels of the other: (1) “Hmmm, that looks interesting,” and (2) “If you are ever seen in public reading this book, you will be marked for life as the skeeziest middle-aged creep ever to walk the planet.”
I didn’t get the book.
Yes, I’m one of those people who read in public. You can see us in the parks and restaurants, our meals or drinks barely tasted, our minds wandering in whatever world we’ve decided to carry with us to wherever we’ve come to rest. But as a public reader, I occasionally find myself leaving a book at home, even one I’m totally into, because of the cover.
I’ve heard that in Japan, it’s not considered remarkable for middle-aged salarymen to openly read hard-core pornographic manga on the subway. But I can’t imagine even sitting in Mac’s Breakfast Anytime reading, for example,
without drawing stares.
It was awkward enough the Christmas I opened a box at my in-laws’ house and pulled out a gift from my sister-in-law:
which resulted in those frozen smiles my mother- and father-in-law always get when they’re confronted with something even vaguely risque. (They are, to be fair, extremely nice people, but they don’t know from hardboiled, much less noir).
It’s not just the covers with steamy subject matter or scantily clad women. I don’t go in much for self-help or self-improvement books (can’t you tell?) and I’ve never read
But can you imagine reading it in front of a room full of people? And what would you think of someone reading one of these:
over their MegaMaxi Enchilada and ElGrande Nachos (with extra cheese) at Bob’s Burrito Barn? Nothing complimentary, I’m thinking.
Culturally sensitive guy that I am, I once left
at home because I was paranoid about getting the stink-eye from the wait staff at the Peking Wok.
I’m sure that the science fiction fans among you are familiar with the phenomenon. SF and fantasy, after all, are famous for some of the cheesiest, worst-conceived covers ever. There are, of course, the types of fantasy covers that John Scalzi once summed up as “strippers with swords,” but there are some classic SF covers that, shall we say, give one pause. Like these…
…which are, to put it mildly, Freudian as hell.
What do you think? Am I just being neurotic? Do you read in public? Have you ever left a book home that you wanted to read because of the cover? Or do you just not give a damn? I’m particularly interested in hearing from the romance fans, who are used to stuff like this:
(Okay, that’s not an actual title. It’s from this great website of Romance Covers That Never Were, which I recommend to all).
Hope all the US ‘Rati have a happy Thanksgiving, and all our non-US friends…well, have a good Thursday!