A while ago I did a lot of pointing and gagging about the covers of the top 10 best-selling books in Australia. I have been intending to repeat that process for a while, but every bloody week the top ten books are just various versions of those bloody Twilight books, and I already sneered at them in the original post.
So, in desperation, I turned to the UK. Amazon's current top ten includes NO Stephanie Meyer, which is some small miracle. So what do we get instead?
10. At My Mother's Knee and Other Low Joints by Paul O'Grady
Late, great science-fiction writer and editor Theodore Sturgeon formulated the proposition now generally known as Sturgeon's Law: "ninety percent of everything is crap". This was in response to those critics who deride science-fiction by pointing at the worst samples of the genre and ignoring the good stuff ('Star Trek is bollocks, Star Trek is science-fiction, therefore science-fiction is bollocks.'). His point was that though it's true that most science-fiction is rubbish, most of everything is rubbish. Ninety percent of music is crap. Ninety percent of literary novels are crap. Ninety percent of films are crap.
My corollary to Sturgeon's Law would add "...but ninety-nine percent of TV is crap." The endless need for vast amounts of content and the absolute lowest-common-denominator audience produces such a torrent of bilge that it makes my forehead bleed.
I am one-half of one of the 2,000 households in Australia that has a TV ratings meter, so I'm doing my best to show that not EVERYBODY wants to watch a constant barrage of rank sewage. I mainly achieve this by watching nothing on the main commercial networks. What this means is that I primarily watch the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the national government-funded public broadcaster. What this means is that I tend to see a fair amount of 3-year-old British stuff containing terribly dated references to minor British celebrities the world would be no worse for the lacking of.
What this means, and I really am going somewhere with all of this, is that I have a vague awareness of this Paul O'Grady person as an irritating TV drag queen turned irritating TV host. And the cover of his book proves that 99.9% of celebrity memoir covers are crap. And the less said about that "joke" of a title, the better.
9. Top Gear 2009 Annual by uncredited BBC flacks
'Top Gear' is one of those high-rating shows I don't watch. If I want to see wankers with small brains and even smaller penises driving expensive cars badly and illegally, I can just look at the fuckwits who speed along my street.
This thing looks like a comic crossed with a $1 scrapbook, which is fine given that it's a throwaway no-brain gift for children. However...
8. For Crying Out Loud by Jeremy Clarkson
..that does not explain the popularity among adults of this thing, by 'Top Gear' host and animate-pond-scum-in-human-form Jeremy Clarkson. And it's the umpeenth volume of his "thoughts" to be published, and while I give Penguin a lot of praise for some of their work, I don't know that they can forgiven for foisting this congealed pus onto the bookshelves and toilet tanks of the world. Clarkson strikes me as sort of the Platonic ideal of the overbearing know-all father-in-law.
Now, I like owls as much as the next man. But the only owl/Clarkson conjunction I want to see on a book cover is of the nocturnal-bird-tearing-out-the-eyes-of-the-vile-TV-host variety.
7. Guinness World Records 2009 by various persons who must lie awake at night wondering 'How is it my life has taken me to a place where I stand around with a stopwatch and officially witness how long it takes for someone to eat 500 hard-boiled eggs?'
6. That's Another Story by Julie Walters
Make that '99.99% of celebrity memoir covers are crap'.
5. Jamie's Ministry of Food by Jamie Oliver
Now, I know it's not the designer's fault that this cover irresistibly reminds me of the wonderful online Christmas game 'Attack of the Sprouts'...
..but it's probably for the best that they didn't include three china ducks behind Mr Oliver.
4. Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama
One day a politician will publish a book with an interesting cover, and on that day there will be much rejoicing.
3. The Big Book of Top Gear by someone who needs to take a good, hard look at themselves
Three 'Top gear' books in the top ten. That's the second sign of the Apocalypse. This technicolour extravaganza produces the unconvincing illusion that YOU are Jeremy Clarkson, smiling like a buffoon, with what look like two gurning sex criminals in the seat behind you, all three unaware that the fatal, eye-tearing owl lurks around the next bend.
Also, that title is an anagram for 'Go, Hot Tripe Kebab Goof', something that an enterprising British person should find a way to yell at Clarkson every time he appears in public.
2. Dear Fatty by Dawn French
99.999%, then. And is that the same swimming pool as the one behind Julie Walters? Still, if this book is as duff as the title and certain reviews suggest, the cover may actually be the best thing about it.
1. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling
That cover's OK, I guess, without being anything special. Much as I suspect the book would be. I'll never know, of course: I've never read anything Harry Potter, and intend never to rectify this. I worked in a bookshop during the releases of Potters 4 to 6, and the constant questions about when the next one would be coming out, along with endless "Have you read them? YOU MUST YOU MUST THEY'RE FANTASTIC THE BEST THINGS EVER!"-type 'conversations' killed any faint interest I might have had in these books. Buyers of this "standard edition" should note, however, that they are missing out on "an exclusive reproduction of J.K. Rowling's handwritten introduction" and a bag of "replica gemstones", which come with the exclusive "collector's edition". Don't say you weren't warned.
Replica gemstones: you don't get them with your fancy-pants French literature.