In 2005, Penguin Books released a set of seventy skinny books that sought to celebrate the paperback revolution and represent the publisher’s history. [See Happy Birthday, Penguin!] The complete set is gorgeous, yes, but a sampling has me convinced that they won’t satisfy me. And not in the way that they’ll leave me hungry for more—presumably, to hunt down the original, complete editions [as I suspect is part of their marketing shiznit]—just, you know, like mildly nauseating puff.
I am glad, though, that I found these just now, [less than a day after reading this post from Michael]—since whatever I say will be quite irrelevant at this point. Ah, the joys of the bargain bin. Moreover, I realize I am never going to complete this set, but I’m quite happy with chancing upon 1/7 for 200 bucks [about $4] during some hardcore book-spelunking.
The list: Innocent House, by P.D. James; Idiot Nation, by Michael Moore; The School Inspector Calls, by Gervase Phinn; 1914: Why the World Went to War, by Niall Ferguson; Death in the Bunker, by Ian Kershaw; The Queen in Hell Close, by Sue Townsend; The Aristocratic Adventurer, by David Cannadine. [There are three more, but their short stories, and I’m practicing this barely-tested thingie called foresight, by saving them for Short Story Month this May.]
I immediately—and all-too-quickly—made my way through this teensy stack. Of the seven, I only marginally enjoyed Moore: he’s nasty, predictably subversive, but he made me laugh a handful of times. Townsend was enjoyable, though I doubt I’ll run out to get the complete novel this tidbit was excerpted from—but I will buy it if I see it. The James fell flat since I read it days after I read a new-to-me collection of Sherlock Holmes stories. The Phinn was so horridly sickly-sweet and icky, that gah. The rest. Well. Well. Funnily enough, Cannadine approximates satisfaction: as an excerpt, it’s substantial enough, though I am content to not read the original work.
Samples. They’re like those little slips of perfumed paper ninja-salesladies at the mall slip into your unwitting hands. They’re teasers. Gah, the deception.
I do realize that this über-random sample may not be the best sample. That perhaps this is best taken as a set. Then again, isn’t that a weakness in itself? That I can’t close my eyes and bob for the best—or, at least, readable—books? That these skinny little bleepers can’t stand on their itty-bitty spines?
I’m seriously wondering whether I give these away [then again, who’d want them after I basically stuck my tongue out at them?], or just keep them in their tidy little edge of the shelf. Hm. We’ll see when I read the last three in my “collection.” Lord, I sound like a tease, haha. I’ll ship them over to Michael’s kitchen. It is not in me to lurve them.
PPS – Although I’m snarky enough to suspect as well that the Mini Classics that are taking the blogosphere by ~storm are part of some Evil Marketing Shiznit, I am nonetheless excited to nab some when I see them—guys, they’re mostly short stories, thankfully not these bitten off excerpts. They’re a nice little shout-out to the short fiction of established authors, modern or otherwise, and I want.
PPPS – Although the list-maker and the to-do-list-annihilator in me is usually giddy to add to my record of 2011 Books Read, the skinniness of these books—their very excerpt-y nature—makes me feel like I’m cheating against a set of standards unbeknownst even to me. As I add an item, and another, a voice in me is screaming, “Yo, Sasha—that’s not a book, that’s a bleeping pamphlet—a brochure, a freaking advertorial.” /pathetic
ETA: Oh my, I sound so grumpy, hahaha. But, really, every excerpt encountered is a head-desk moment. Ta.