How was it for you? The festive season, I mean. Obviously, it is a time of the year when we all eat and drink too much but itâ€™s also the book worldâ€™s busiest time. Just think about it â€“ all those celebrity autobiographies, celebrity cook-books, celebrity miracle diet books, celebrity self-help books â€“ you get the drift. And then there is the usual crop of ghost stories, books about Christmas, bumper editions of newspaper cartoons, reflections on the year past and a host of other â€˜special editionsâ€™ which are rushed out in time for flustered purchasers to grab in desperation as the answer to the question â€˜What in heavenâ€™s name shall I get for Aunt Florenceâ€™ or even more pointed, â€˜What can I buy for my grandson?â€™
Yes, itâ€™s easy to see why the book trade loves Christmas but how many of those presents are actually read and enjoyed by their recipients? How many of the â€˜special editionsâ€™ end up at the charity shop or the Oxfam bookshop the first week in January? As they are so specifically tied to Christmas and to a particular Christmas at that, they cannot even be recycled as a gift for someone else unless the donor wishes to appear to be a complete cheapskate. Do you detect a world weariness in my tone? Well, since I became a writer myself, I confess to looking at these things differently and sometimes my view is coloured by what I see as the greed and rapaciousness of those who are powerful in the publishing world.
It is the Commissioning Editors, Agents and Directors of the Publishing houses who decide that this Christmas we shall all be tempted by another TV chef cook-book, Z-list autobiography or collection of letters from a well-loved actress and, in deciding which celebrity will be delighting us with what, they are concerned only with the sound of ringing tills, not the chorusing of happy readers. Quality has nothing to do with the decisions made in respect of the Christmas book market and quantity of sales is everything â€“ what does it matter that the purchaser of the book is buying it only because a â€˜nice bookâ€™ is the last resort for the anguished and the recipient will never read it? What does it matter as long as those cook-books and celeb â€˜secretsâ€™ are flying off the shelves?
Well, thatâ€™s how things have been done for many a Christmas past but there is change in the air. As I said last month, the advent of the e-book is giving mainstream publishing a nasty headache and this new kid on the block is changing what happens at Christmas. Instead of giving a hard copy book which may or may not be to the taste of the recipient, people are giving e-readers so that the recipient can choose from the millions of books which are now available for download at a fraction of the cost of the hard copy. It would be interesting to know just how many books were downloaded onto spanking new e-readers on Christmas day; I donâ€™t have a figure but I bet it was millions and I bet that the hot shot publishers were weeping into their champagne that their stranglehold on the worldâ€™s Christmas stocking is coming to an end.
The book Iâ€™m reviewing this month is written by a Shropshire resident and, if you are a devoted Beatles fan, now is the time to go and feed the budgie. Living Life Without Loving the Beatles â€“ A Survivorâ€™s Guide – by Gary Hall is an extended essay more than anything else but it is written in the style of a self-help book and it is very funny.
Gary is a talented musician and knows his subject well. He is, therefore, qualified to hold a view which, in some peopleâ€™s eyes, makes him a pariah of the most odious kind up there with Pol Pot, Richard Nixon and The Child Snatcher because his view is thatâ€¦..wait for itâ€¦.. the Beatles are rubbish. Not just mildly over-rated but deep down and fundamentally rubbish. In his words, the Beatles are more middle of the road than a lollipop manâ€™s shadow and, in his view, that is musically criminal. You would think that, in a world where people regularly post ghastly things on the internet, Gary would be safe in assuming that his admittedly strongly worded but nevertheless harmless view, would attract interest rather than hatred. But you would be wrong. It is clear from the book that boldly stating oneâ€™s low opinion of the fab Fourâ€™s musicality is much worse than swearing in church and is seen by almost anyone over a certain age as being as bad as drowning kittens.
Well, the man is entitled to his view and entitled to voice it and, to a large extent I agree with him. Interestingly, one of the reasons for the Beatlesâ€™ evergreen popularity is that the music publishing world keeps their flame alive with newly mixed releases and, as Gary points out, why bother bringing on new talent when you can make money from a band that split up over thirty years ago? This, of course, echoes the cynicism and market manipulation of the literary world and strikes a chord with me.
Many people will loath this book because they are dedicated Beatles fans but they should read it so that they can marshal their arguments against Gary Hallâ€™s views as comprehensively and as tellingly as he makes his case. I very much doubt, though, that they will be able to make me laugh as much as he did. ***** Available from freespeechbooks.com
By J.A. Gordon
More articles by Shropshire based author J.A. Gordon:
J.A. Gordon â€“ Shropshire Writer in Residence
Discovering e-publishing and Tamara Drewe book review
The bane of Christmas Books and Living Life Without Loving the Beatles Review
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon talks about every writerâ€™s nightmare
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon â€“ rules for a good book
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon – The Loneliness of the long distance writer
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon â€“ Where do you get your ideas?
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon â€“ Jeremyâ€™s tweet and the launch party
Top Photo Courtesy of: Leo Reynolds – Flickr.com
All about J.A. Gordon
Judith Gordon is a barrister and was an in-house lawyer and long distance commuter for twenty years before redundancy made her see that there is life after the corporate rat race. She moved to Shropshire in 2007 with her husband and adores the fabulous food and spectacular scenery although recent winters have been a bit of a trial. In addition to her writing, Judith is Strategy Director of face2face solicitors a national franchise. Judithâ€™s books are available online and from booksellers, see www.chroniclesofeternity.co.uk for more information.