They Could, and Did, and Should Never Again, Write a Book

July 28, 2006

Since Big Hollywood Director (henceforth BHD) shared a little of his glam job reading material with me this week, I thought I would pass on the love with a little peek inside the world of a library intern in technical services, the part of the library that handles everything to do with the books before they get to the shelves. You never see us. We work in basements wearing jeans and t-shirts.

So yesterday, I was packing up a new shipment of books to be “outsourced” which means “sent to Ohio to be cataloged.” This particular shipment was full of gift books, books that have been sitting on our back shelves for months to years because someone gave them to us and someone accepted them for the collection but alas they have no cataloging info printed inside. They are sent to Ohio in groups of a hundred, and there’s always a good thousand waiting in the queue.

These books are generally, in a word, bad. And just for you, I typed up a sample of some of yesterday’s best. Without further ado, I bring you the kookiest books we are paying to add to the shelves of a university library:

The Miler, by Hap Cawood

(please G&B, can you put a character named Hap in that novel you are editing?)

This is directly off the back: “A Kentucky mountain boy pursues the dream of a distance run that takes him further than he thought he could go—in an era when James Dean left the scene, Elvis came into it, life was simpler, love was the same, and few people ran the roads.” Because nothing begs for a cliche like a story set in Kentucky.

That, shockingly, is not the worst part of the blurb. Consider, “With a driving thrust beyound the bounds of the ordinary, the runner holds his will steady and his motion smooth in the fury.” I had a strong urge to wash my hands.

The Intuitive Observations of a Lowly House Painter: The Social Commentary, Political Humor, and Philosophical Reflections of a Common Man, by Marc Sanz

I think the title of this one pretty much says it all, but it is definitely rounded out by the cover art: a picture of said housepainter sitting on a ladder naked (except for his painter’s hat) in the pose of The Thinker with a paintbrush where the fig leaf should have been.

Chin up, Mom by Suzanne Douglass

The author of this book is under the misguided impression that she was writing poetry. In any case, the “verse” collected within is divided into four sections mirroring the stages of motherhood: Pregnant, The Early Period, The PTA Period, Reflections on Family Life.

 

A couple of choice excerpts:

“Eggs-actly” (yes, that is the title of the “poem”)

As I stand here coloring Easter eggs…

That’s all I’m including from this poem, but I’ll hazard a guess that the author’s allusion to Tillie Olsen’s clasic short story “I Stand Here Ironing,” was unintentional, while it could have been joining in Olsen’s critique of motherhood’s domestic servitude as self-actualizing bliss, it probably wasn’t, as evidenced by this next one.

“By an ironing board”

I think that I shall never cease

To wonder as I sprinkle

Why cloth that will not hold a crease

Holds every wrinkle

(Please give me back Alice Munro please! At the very least Carol Shields!)

But this last one beats them all. Imagine the following lines printed across the page, in block caps, in the concrete form your eighth grade English teacher warned you about taking the shape of a woman’s silhouette, complete with breasts and baby bump, and you will have some idea of what I will never be able to wipe off my retinas:

“It didn’t come from high heeled shoes, this posture that you see; although my spine’s not on a line the fault rests not with me. It was caused back in my teenage by the books I had to carry and I thought it would correct itself when I left school to marry. But now that I’m a matron there’s an even greater dip; I simply traded text books for a baby on my hip.”

 

Heartbreakingly, as I opened the back cover to stick a card pocket on, an unattached book plate slipped out informing me that the book had been donated in the memory of someone’s mother. I hope they have martinis in heaven, because she is going to need one if she ever finds out.

 

And a final fine addition to the university collection:

Coming Back: The Science of Reincarnation

Bills itself as “the most comprehensive and easy to understand explanation of reincarnation ever published” next to a pic of a towheaded tot in Osh Kosh B’Gosh. Thankfully, I noted that that this book had not been donated in the memory of anyone’s mother.

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2 Responses to “They Could, and Did, and Should Never Again, Write a Book”

  1. Steven Says:

    Hmmm….I was planning on publishing an epic poem filled with the homespun wisdom of pregnant house painters carrying reincarnated babies…do you think those books will cut into my market too much?

  2. Lauren Says:

    Quite the contrary, Steven — You can reference these books when you sell the pitch to the publishers! “In the grand tradition of “Chin Up, Mom” and “Coming Back: The Science of Reincarnation,” comes a gripping new poem, written in the style of the ancient bards, on the eternal glory of motherhood, housing painting, and truly being an old soul. Readers will delight in the downhome wisdom and practical profundity of the author.” There’s a built-in audience!


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