I moved to the next bookcase and all of a sudden I was back in the time when crisps still contained enough MSG to give you a high. My 12-year-old self, let loose in the local library. The hope the Mills and Boon novels contained… Sexiness. I borrowed an M&B, hid it between a text-book on birds and a historical thriller. When I got home I ravaged the pages seeking a hint of salacious narrative. Such was my disappointment. Not one paragraph stirred even the essence of a hormone. The die had been cast. Romance was out.
Yes, not only was I guilty of coveting clique covers I was also a genre elitist. Heinous crimes, both. Book bigotry, if you will.
I thought I would take a journey around the shop and look at each section rather than speeding past those that raised a spume of disgust. Sport! I tried, I really tried, to find something to interest me, but found I was looking for lacrosse as I knew it would be either: safer – or absent from the shelves.
Now, I love a text book. I collect text-books. Many are still unread on my shelves. But I know they are there waiting for me to absorb their knowledge, almost as if I can possess information by the act of text-book hoarding. I stepped out from the section as it was purse-perilous, and would never be safe territory for me.
Classics! Instant ingurgitation. I knew I must move away from the Classics' section, for it fired greed within me.
I paused by Classic Fiction. The wonderful covers of the past. Spies lurking under gas lamps; exotic skylines slathered with fabulous fonts. Long ago, when hope and boundless energy were still present, I remember sneaking a peek at the novel my best friend’s sister was reading. The cover sent me straight to moonlit Rome. My spine tingled. My eyes dried with longing as I drooled over the page I tried to understand. The content was too sophisticated for me. I was only eight! I remembered the title and borrowed it years later from the library. A great chiller-thriller.
When enmeshed in a book I’ve always felt compelled to keep flipping back to look at the cover. For me it’s a pictorial connection with the author, helping to visualise the world they created. My favourite covers are those with a lively depiction of the characters or settings. And any books that include maps, illustrations or other bursts of quirkiness are always a delightful surprise.
Having completed my circuit of the shelves, I was back at the chick-lit section. Was there, I wondered, somewhere in the same bookshop, a reader diving away from novels clad in black, white and red covers, assuming a potential blood-fest much as I had been spurning pastel encased love-lettings?
It was time to question the bookiverse, to sum up my literary travels.
Are publishers doing authors a disservice by so obviously badging books? Has searching the virtual bookshop given novels a chance to escape genre? In our fast technological world have novels finally been set free?