Wednesday 3 December 2008

Another Extended Sneer, with Violent Suggestions

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.


Lucy Fishwife said...

**hands over eyes screaming in a jerky, hysterical, Japanese-horror-movie way**
Oh the humanity. And so much of it smirking. I used to work in a Big Chain Bookstore and was used to spending my days gazing nauseatedly at WALLS OF THE THINGS, torn between hating them in situ and hating them fior all the trouble they were going to be to return after Xmas. Luckily where I work now is independent, and we didn't even stock the Russell Brand book...

Anonymous said...

Scott Pack recently pointed out just how many celebrities rely on their hands to keep their chins from hitting the floor. They must think that post just oozes affability.

And I hate to say it but O'Grady and Walters are probably two of the most acceptable celebrity memoirs this Xmas.

Jeremy Clarkson, on the other hand, no fate is too worse than death for.

Anonymous said...

pose! not post!

JonathanM said...

Brilliant, just brilliant.

And John, it's the pose that hides the wattle.

Ricky Lee Grove said...

You started my day with a lot of laughter. Thank you for that. Wonderful post. Please continue slicing your way through the NYTimes Bestseller list, please. I think you should make this a regular series of posts..."congealed pus"...OMG...

JRSM said...

Thank you all--that Scott Pack post is spot-on. The Sheila Hancock book cover ('Just Me') oozes a particularly irritating would-be winsomeness. I think the wattle-hiding theory is correct. And this Russell Brand person... someone whose fame has yet to extend beyond the UK (I think), yet his punchable-looking book is on sale everywhere in Australia. Madness, I say! MADNESS!

Anonymous said...

Read in the paper today that the O'Grady, French and Walters memoirs have sold three-quarters of a million copies between them: and they've only been out for a few weeks.

JRSM said...

>Sigh< That is unsurprising, but still annoying.

Grey Area said...

The Julie Walters book was serialised on the radio into five
15 min. chunks - which made it quite acceptable - editing it down to just the interesting bits, the only way to make these things palatable.

The Paul O'Grady book would have been better if they waited for the subject to have actually died first - and the cover of the Dawn French book is a masterpiece of photo-shopery, it's decades since she had a jawline, she has shed 10 stone and 25's probably all floating in that pool.

JRSM said...

Maybe that pool IS the excess Dawn French, rendered into soap or some such liquid. Love your blog, by the way--those Hurrel photos are amazing!

The Poet Laura-eate said...

I couldn't agree more with EVERYTHING you say in this posting CCC and shall not be purchasing any of these illustrious titles unless Alzheimers descends at an early age.

By the way, where'd you get a TV ratings meter? Sounds like a great idea!

JRSM said...

You are a wise woman, Laura-eate! The ratings meter was odd: the ratings people just rang up one day and asked if we'd be interested when a vacancy came up on their "panel", and, seeing a chance to inflict my views on everybody else, I said YES!

Anonymous said...

"...the cover of the Dawn French book is a masterpiece of photo-shopery, it's decades since she had a jawline, she has shed 10 stone and 25's probably all floating in that pool."

"Maybe that pool IS the excess Dawn French, rendered into soap or some such liquid."

Actually, it's rendered into Jeremy Clarkson.

Anonymous said...

Although I loathe Top Gear and Clarkson, to be fair to the designers, I don't think this is a particularly insightful observation,

"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."

Since the obvious intention was to create a spoof redolent of the annuals of the 1970s, and was achieved well, I reckon the criticism is redundant.

Otherwise, I quite agree with you!

JRSM said...

Dan, that's a fair comment. At that point, though, I was riding high on a white-hot wave of bile, and beyond being fair.