Judging Books: Part 1 of 2
Written by Bwog Staff
Sometimes, when you feel like everything in life is passing its judgment on you, it helps to do a little judging yourself. The following is Bwog correspondent CML’s pilgrimage to the Bookstore in search of superficial literary gratification.
Putting an iPod through the wash and receiving one of those “What are you doing with your life?” e-mails from my grandmother—as I did, one steely gray day in March—puts one in the mood to have absolute control over something. What I needed was books, and what I was going to do was judge them by their covers. Fired by the spirit of my grandmother and my own discontent, I walked the 100 feet from Carman to Lerner and strolled through the door, down the escalator and into the depths of the Columbia University Barnes and Noble.
As I stepped off the landing, I felt myself drawn towards the flashy colors of the New Arrivals section. One volume in particular caught my eye: Women & Money (by Suze Orman, $24.95). The cover’s defining feature is Suze herself: amidst a bold white background, there she was, wearing a hideous pinstripe jacket, Winfreyesque quantities of makeup, and a lagomorphic smile that would put Brer Rabbit’s dentist to shame. I was repulsed. Searching for one redeeming quality this book might have, I turned it over and instead unearthed this gem: “Why is it that women, who are so competent in all other areas of their lives, cannot find the same competence when it comes to money?” Clearly the answer, Suze, is because they don’t buy your ugly, overpriced, blue-and-vomit-yellow book.
After tossing the wench’s potboiler on the ground, I made my way towards the hallowed mythology section, where I was confronted by a volume proclaiming itself to be The Aeneid of Virgil (by Allen Mandelbaum, $19.95). Its entire cover just exuded Spartan: the subject matter (kind of), the aesthetic (drab and blocky bichromatic), and the coloration (green and white, reminisicent of Michigan State’s athletic teams). The cover’s center depicted, in black and white, a man lying prone with his arms stretched out, perhaps for an NCAA tournament bid, or a vestige of dignity after losing to George Mason last year. I was sitting on the fence about this one, but the prose on the back was stuffy and pretentious, and I realized we’d read the exact same translation in Lit Hum a few weeks ago. So I reshelved it.
Looking for something a little lighter, I walked out of the mythology section and straight into a kiosk that promised “Fun Things to Make and Do.” One title in particular leapt out at me: Spot’s First Easter (by Eric Hill, $7.99). While the back cover’s coloration was boldly purple, its prose was certainly not: “The easter bunny has hidden some eggs for spot to find. Spot’s friend Helen joins in, and the search becomes a counting game.” What a brilliant pedagogical gimmick. Perhaps he should come teach math at Columbia – but, judging from his apparent proficiency in English – I don’t think they’d take him. Writing $8 children’s books probably pays better, though.
Stay tuned for part two!