(ORIGINAL POST DATE: Wednesday December 8, 2010)
Pet Peeve alert.
Right now I’m making a list of books that I want to read which includes the author, genre, if it is part of a series, and a short plot synopsis so that I remember what it’s about and can make my next book selections without searching the internet just for the summary. I know, I’m a nerd, but this is going to be terribly convenient since I read a lot and the list is pretty enormous. I also have the tendency to write down books on scraps of paper, and find them MONTHS or even YEARS later. I have no idea who wrote them or what they are about and I usually end up losing that paper. So an electronic list with everything right there? Perfect.
So here I am making this list and a pet peeve slowly shows it’s nasty, beady-eyed greedy little head. Yes, I think pet peeves are greedy. Don’t ask me why, they just are. Think about it.
Plot summaries are pretty much non existent for books written by famous authors or which have become famous. There are words there, yes, but never actually tell you anything about what happens in the book or the premise of the book other than ‘it’s about a boy… and he talks…. he’s human’. Sometimes they don’t even give you the gender part, or the human part, or even that there is actually a plot inside the book. All of those words are just praise for the author. Their writing style, how funny and quick witted the book is, etc. It’s annoying.
That’s nice that you want to tell me about his writing style, but by golly, I will know if I read it. And I don’t know if I want to read it because you won’t tell me what the damn book is actually about. Don’t tell me “One of his/her best works to date.” What if I don’t think so? I can’t judge that can I if I don’t know what the book is about.
I’m am known to drop a book as soon as I flip it over (or open the front cover in the case of a hardback) if there is no blurb. What is the point of the back cover or inside front cover if you’re just going to have quotes saying “AMAZING! MASTERFUL!” – NY Times. Useless to someone who has no idea what it’s about and is just browsing the bookstore. That is nice that magazines and newspapers think it’s amazing. I like to form my own opinions, thank you very much and that first opinion will stem from the blurb that should be somewhere on the book.
Take for instance this “synopsis” of A Prayer for Owen Meany from Amazon.com. [This is my friend’s favorite book]
Owen Meany is a dwarfish boy with a strange voice who accidentally kills his best friend’s mom with a baseball and believes–accurately–that he is an instrument of God, to be redeemed by martyrdom. (Well good, that is a start. It’s about a boy and his best friend.) John Irving’s novel, which inspired the 1998 Jim Carrey movie Simon Birch, is his most popular book in Britain, and perhaps the oddest Christian mystic novel since Flannery O’Connor’s work. (Wait, I thought we were talking about what the book was about? I have never seen Simon Birch and I probably won’t because I hate Jim Carrey. I guess if I’m feeling up to it, I can look at the plot synopsis for the movie and cross reference it with the book? Sounds like a lot of work.) Irving fans will find much that is familiar: the New England prep-school-town setting, symbolic amputations of man and beast, the Garp-like unknown father of the narrator (Owen’s orphaned best friend), the rough comedy (Ok, I’ve never read any of his books. So I guess it’s set in a small town. Are there really amputations of man and beast? I didn’t think this was a horror novel. Maybe it is? Oh. someone doesn’t know who his father is. That is something I guess… OH! And we know the narrator.) The scene of doltish the doltish headmaster driving a trashed VW down the school’s marble staircase is a marvelous set piece. So are the Christmas pageants Owen stars in. But it’s all, as Highlights magazine used to put it, “fun with a purpose.” When Owen plays baby Jesus in the pageants, and glimpses a tombstone with his death date while enacting A Christmas Carol, the slapstick doesn’t cancel the fact that he was born to be martyred (Ok, so i know small things that happen in this book. Somehow I have a feeling that there is more to it than this, but again, it’s a start). The book’s countless subplots add up to a moral argument, specifically an indictment of American foreign policy–from Vietnam to the Contras (I didn’t get any of this from the things you just told me.. Where does Vietnam come into play??).
So as you can see from this plot synopsis, I get that there is a boy with a strange voice. His friend is telling the story. He does some things as he grows up like act in Christmas Pageants and killing someone accidentally. Somehow all of this is related to Vietnam.
I know this book has a lot of pages. There has to be more to it than this? Yet somehow, this is all I get out of it. Do I want to read it? Well, not really. But it is my friend’s favorite book, so I might give it a shot eventually, but only because of that.
So, If any authors out there are reading this (and I doubt that is true) do not let the publisher skimp on the blurb and for goodness sakes, online book stores, put a damn plot synopsis!
Missing: Plot Synopsis
Reward: Me buying and reading your book.