THE BLOG

Don't Blame These Book Problems on the Author!

10/18/2011 11:01 am ET | Updated Dec 18, 2011
  • Dave Astor Author, 'Comic (and Column) Confessional'

You love novels, but sometimes things connected to them can be annoying. So, with an affectionate nod to Peeves the Poltergeist of Harry Potter, here are a few book-related pet peeves that aren't the authors' fault.

Hollywoodized book covers. When a novel is turned into a movie, the cover of a new edition can reflect this. That leaves readers with, say, an image of a glamorous actress type on the front of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre -- a wonderful novel with an admirable but decidedly UNGLAMOROUS heroine. Somehow I don't remember Ms. Eyre saying: "Excuse me, Mr. Rochester, while I put on my makeup and hair extensions."

Introductions that give away key plot points. These before-the-book essays are often interesting pieces often written by academics who often know their stuff. But they often offer way too much information. For instance, the introduction I read to Mary Shelley's The Last Man explained how two major characters would die in that gripping book. Save it for the afterword, Professor Spoiler Alert-Challenged!

Novels in which a scholar puts footnotes amid the book. If you're gonna have footnotes, stick them after the afterword! I just read The First Men in the Moon, and some pages had more footnotes than text from H.G. Wells' fascinating sci-fi novel. That hurt the reading flow. And, as is the case with some introductions, the footnotes prematurely revealed plot info. If Wells took The Time Machine to when those footnotes were written, he'd whack that scholar upside the head.

Abridged books. Some massive classics -- such as Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace -- are available in truncated versions. I can understand the reasons for that, but don't like to see an author's vision slashed. My feeling is either read a long novel in its entirety or stick with shorter novels. Got any Nancy Drew mysteries I can borrow?

Library books "abridged" by readers. I still remember taking out William Styron's Sophie's Choice from a New York City library branch many winters ago, and finding some pages missing after a previous borrower had ripped them out. If you want to feed the flames in your fireplace, use logs.

Stuff left in library books. Actually, I have mixed feelings about this. I'll give an old checkout slip a glance to see the person's reading choices before tossing the slip in the recycles. A leaf? A little bit of nature between the pages. But I'd rather not see your shopping or things-to-do lists, unless one of your things to do is "stop leaving things in books."

What are your book-related pet peeves?

This Blogger's Books and Other Items from...