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Christmas - ibroughtuflours

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The Sea of Stars

Water-stained pages, pebbles and traces of stardust


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Book Rant
Christmas - ibroughtuflours
sea_thoughts
This rant has been simmering in my mind for a while and it seems that I always do this in the wee hours of the morning when I really should be in bed but my mind just will not shut up. It's a compilation of various issues with books and publishing that I, as a dedicated bookworm, have noticed throughout my life (yeah, I've only been reading books for around twenty years, but that's still enough time to have amassed some grievances). I would like to hear what other people on my flist think, particularly those of you who are librarians (kit_the_brave) or teachers (stmargarets) or just interested in literature generally (the rest of you, esp. jo_blogs).

1. Illustrations
Frankly, the state of book illustrations in the UK sucks right now. The market has certainly become more open to graphic novels and comics (it helps that most of the authors spearheading this revolution are British) but in 'normal' books, illustrations have become passé. Just twenty years ago, when I was in single digits, nearly every children's book I picked up was illustrated; even the 'big' books with chapters at least had chapter heading illustrations and often full-page ones. The cover illustrations were pen and ink, or watercolours. Nowadays, it seems like they slap together some CGI shapes and that's it. Not all books do that, of course. I applaud covers that are put together with some genuine thought. The "Definitions" series for young adults is a good example of innovative cover design. But all too often, style triumphs over substance. I recently bought the book Momo by Michael Ende, better known for writing The Never-Ending Story. The cover illustration depicts an angry street child against a grey backdrop. It's faithful to the book but it's not appealing. I was shocked to discover that all the other translations have the author's illustrations included and on the cover. Did Penguin not think they were good enough? That they were too childish? The edition I bought was new in that it had been newly printed, but it was still in the 'small paperback' format that all Penguin books used to be in (ah, those were the days) with an old-fashioned cover. Come on, Penguin! Why can't we have Ende's illustrations like everyone else? English children are not that different from French, German or Dutch!

2. Book Series
I'm sure I'm not the only person who's been sold short or left fuming because of the cavalier way some publishers treat book series and the authors of those series. Mixx, the company responsible for gathering the translated Sailor Moon manga into volumes, messed around the earlier buyers so much that it left them scarred for life. I got sold short last year when collecting the Paradise Kiss manga: the first four volumes were all published with the same jackets, a snazzy grey background and gothic script, a refreshing change from the bright colours that published manga (whether shoujo or shounen) tends to have in English. The fifth volume was COMPLETELY DIFFERENT: dark purple, different script, different illustration. WTF? What, you couldn't be bothered to publish the last volume in the same binding? Are you really that lazy?

Here's what I mean:

Vol 1; Vol 2; Vol 3; Vol 4

And then

Vol 5

WHY? It makes no sense! I know it sounds OCD but I can't help it, if I'm collecting a series, I like it all to look the same! Because it's a SERIES! You cannot just CHANGE the binding at the last moment!

Now onto normal books for those of you who don't read manga. One of my biggest peeves about book series is when publishers promote the first book of that series (see Anne of Green Gables or A Wrinkle in Time) as a 'classic', a book that everyone must have, then either ignore the rest of the series or make it really difficult for you to find the other books. And it's made doubly difficult if the books you're looking for aren't even available in your country or have had their titles changed.

With A Wrinkle In Time, you could go through much of your life (as I did) thinking that was the only book Madeleine L'Engle had written, because it's the only book that's ever promoted here in the UK. I only discovered the Austin books through a second-hand copy of Troubling a Star that I bought from a bookshop in Madrid. That's right, the capital city of Spain.

As for Anne of Green Gables, thanks to the vagaries of UK publishing companies, most people probably think the titular story is the only Anne story in existence. Even those enlightened people who have bought all the books available here still lack Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside, mainly because they don't know about them. Even if most people dislike these books, we should at least have the choice of reading them. As for the Emily trilogy, the two books about Pat or other, rarer Montgomery books, forget it. They might as well not exist.

Titles are also a problem. We all know about the bizarre decision to change "Philosopher's Stone" to "Sorceror's Stone" but it happens over here as well. For instance, over here in the UK, we have four "Little Women" books instead of three. Confused? In their infinite wisdom, the original English publishers decided to split Little Women in half and call the second half Good Wives (for those who are interested, our Little Women ends after John Brooke proposes to Meg). If you want to buy the original edition over here, you need to buy the Penguin Classic edition, which is nicely bound but not exactly appealing to a younger audience. As far as I'm aware, Jo's Boys and Little Men were not changed at all. Then, of course, we have the bewildering change of title for the first book of His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman: published as Northern Lights over here, but changed to The Golden Compass in the US and filmed with that title (no, they're not changing it back to Northern Lights for the UK audience). Okay, I agree that the second title suits the trilogy better but I think the original title is much more evocative (and the Alethiometer is NOT a compass).

And finally, we have the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede. The first two volumes of this were published by Scholastic's short-lived 'Point Fantasy' section over here as Dragonsbane and Dragon Search. Now, I have to admit that in my opinion, as a title, "Dragonsbane" rocks and is much better than Dealing with Dragons. "Dragon Search" is just a more pithy verseion of "Searching for Dragons". But here's the catch: Point Fantasy did not publish the other two books! If I hadn't been browsing on Amazon, I would never have realised this was a quartet. I have cherished my two Point Fantasy editions of Dragonsbane and Dragon Search but now I'm faced with a similar dilemma to the one I had with Paradise Kiss. In order to complete my collection (and find out what the hell happens), I have to buy the final two books Calling On Dragons and Talking To Dragons, but they will look totally different and probably be a different size. It's so frustrating to think that because Point Fantasy didn't make enough money, I'll never get the 'full set' of books I wanted. But at least I can still get hold of these. Many Point Fantasy and Point Sci-Fi books have never been republished, which makes me feel both sorry for their authors and angry on their behalf. Point has republished some of its horror titles, so why not their sci-fi and fantasy ones? They certainly deserve a second chance!

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Actually, from what I understand about the Paradise Kiss covers from visiting a few LJ communities, there were two printings of the entire series. The one through four you have are the newer printings; the fifth one is from the first printing, and the second edition volume five is supposed to be somewhat hard to find, for some reason. Lucky me, though, I do have the second edition version with George and Yukari on the cover instead of Isabella, and I can scan a pic of it for you if you'd like to see it.

- Yumeko -

I went ahead and scanned my volume five for you. Personally, I think it is the best cover in the series:

http://i107.photobucket.com/albums/m320/heavenlypearl/Parakiss.jpg

And if you're interested in what the first edition covers looked like:

http://www.rightstuf.com/1-800-338-6827/catalogmgr/xci-jisS2rHk7Ib6K2/browse/item/56769/4/0/-1543

http://www.rightstuf.com/1-800-338-6827/catalogmgr/xci-jisS2rHk7Ib6K2/browse/item/57383/4/0/-1543

http://www.rightstuf.com/1-800-338-6827/catalogmgr/xci-jisS2rHk7Ib6K2/browse/item/57734/4/0/-1543

http://www.rightstuf.com/1-800-338-6827/catalogmgr/xci-jisS2rHk7Ib6K2/browse/item/58587/4/0/-1543

Funnily enough, I actually ordered my series from Right Stuf, and even though they show the first edition covers on the website, they sent me the ones with the second edition covers. It was quite a pleasant surprise because the old covers were ug-ly.

(Huh, strange. Looking at your links, it appears that there are two versions of the second editon volume four. The one shown in the link has George and his car; my volume four has the new binding, but uses the same picture of Arashi used for the first edition volume fours. Now I'm a little upset at the inconsistancies, although I suppose it's a minor thing since at least mine all have the same binding and look pretty on my bookshelf... Still, I like George and the car better.)

- Yumeko -

Thanks! I wonder why the second edition volume five is hard to find? And I didn't get my fifth volume from an internet store, either, I got it from a local bookshop. When the booksellers brought it out for me, they had a moment where they thought it was a totally different series! I just took a look on Amazon and it seems that this is the only version of Volume 5 available in the UK. Stupid Tokyopop. At least I have George and the car!

re: Book illustrations. I work in a bookshop and part of my job is to recommend titles. My experience, especially with the older children, is if their parent picks up the book and flicks through it and sees too many illustrations the book is dismissed as baby-ish and they go away without it. (This is particulary common with 'Yummy Mummy' types) It's frustrating and sad especially since I think illustrations can help books become such treasured titles. The best book I've seen lately is 'Swordbird' which was written by a 13 year old girl. It had some of the prettiest side illustrations I've ever seen. I wish I could have justifed buying it.

On the subject of series - they don't make it easy to let you know the order books in a series should be read in either. In some cases it's kind of obvious when they put numbers on the spines, but how hard is it to put a reading order list in the front page?

Oh man... I hate that. Parents have no damn right to decide if a book is 'too babyish' or not. :X I'll look out for that book!

Ah yes, series numbering. Chronicles of Narnia always has a problem here: number them in chronological order or in the order they were published? A reading order list is a great idea. *nods*

(Deleted comment)
No, of course not.

The reason it was changed was because the American publishers thought that 'Philosopher's Stone' was not interesting enough and American children would be far more interested in a 'sorceror's stone'. Which I think is extremely condescending, but there you go.

Well, no. Arthur Levine specifically said in his PotterCast interview that it was changed because of the two different meaning in the US, not because 'Philosopher's Stone' wasn't an interesting enough title.

Ah really? Mea culpa. I didn't know about that interview so my sin is one of ignorance. But what two different meanings? ^^;

In the US, 'Philosopher' brings up the idea of Socrates and Plato. 'Sorcerer' could be considered the same as wizard, witch, etc. While many American's are familiar with alchemy, they aren't as familiar with the legend of the 'philosopher's stone'. I posted this in my LJ awhile back:

If the Powers That Be had kept the title of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone for the American edition, I would have thought it was a book about a stone that belonged to Socrates or Plato. Chalk me up as one of the stupid Americans.

I had never heard of a philosopher's stone until I became aquainted with the HP series. I had, however, heard of alchemists and alchemy. (So if they had called it Harry Potter and the Alchemist's Stone, I would have understood perfectly.) There seems to have been a rash of SQ posts lately saying things along the line of "I still can't believe they changed the title! How stupid!". I think I had a pretty good education, in spite of the fact that I wasn't specifically taught the term 'philospher's stone'.

As it was, having the book titled "Sorcerer's Stone" in no way diminished my understanding OR my enjoyment of the book. In fact, I'm almost positive that if the US title hadn't been different from the UK title, I would *still* be wondering what a philosopher had to do with anything. (There would have been no incentive for me to go and Google the term 'philosopher's stone'.)


Okay, thanks for explaining. I can see that if it's not in your cultural background, it would be confusing. ^^

I've long believed that the vast majority of the publishing industry in this country is completely stupid, and that Radio 4 show we went to only confirmed my suspicions.

I don't read or buy many new children's books, as I'm still trying to track down nice editions of the ones I read as a kid and there are plenty of those to keep me going for a while. Editions with good artwork are really important to me - for example, I plan to hunt down the hardback editions of the Anne books I borrowed from my school library if possible, otherwise I'll look for a pre-1975 Puffin edition, because those have by far the nicest artwork. I hate the HP Bloomsbury editions - I hate the covers, the typography, the stupid capitalizations of words like Forest and Headmaster.

I think they probably only promoted A Wrinkle in Time because the story and characters were perceived as the most 'cross-over' in the 1970s, or perhaps because it won a medal. I must admit, I found reading the last Meg and Calvin book a bit of a queasy experience, what with a 19 year old Meg *actually* immobile, pregnant, in bed for almost the entire book, fighting with her brothers about whether or not she can make herself a sandwich (slight exaggeration), while her husband is at some high-flying academic conference. Perhaps, like me, Kaye Webb of Puffin didn't think it was quite the best message to promote to young female readers back in the day. /feminist rant

I've had this experience with series too. One of my favourite children's series is by a writer called Antonia Forest, - all but the first of her books was out of print for *years* and loads of them that had been in libraries were pulped. At one point my copy of The Player and the Rebels was worth hundreds of pounds on Abe. I found the last one (Run Away Home) completely by chance in a school library when I was teaching in 1996. It had been published in 1982, I'd never even heard of it and I'm her biggest fan!

I had a really interesting discussion in my last internet theory and culture reading group about how modern technology is changing the way we view / judge / experience older media, specifically in relation to how we read books, but I'm too fuzzy-headed and arm-achey to explain it here. I'll try and gather my woolly thoughts before next we meet, if you're interested.

I am with you on the last Meg and Calvin book, except that the sequels (Meg and Calvin as adults with kids) are even worse. At least Meg's mom worked in a lab in her house (while cooking dinner, of course). *sigh*

Yay! It wasn't just me :)

I was taught to capitalise 'Headmaster' and 'Headmistress', so that doesn't bother me, but yeah, the typography isn't so good.

I must admit, I found reading the last Meg and Calvin book a bit of a queasy experience, what with a 19 year old Meg *actually* immobile, pregnant, in bed for almost the entire book, fighting with her brothers about whether or not she can make herself a sandwich (slight exaggeration), while her husband is at some high-flying academic conference. Perhaps, like me, Kaye Webb of Puffin didn't think it was quite the best message to promote to young female readers back in the day.

Oh really? Blergh. Is Meg having a difficult pregnancy?

One of my favourite children's series is by a writer called Antonia Forest, - all but the first of her books was out of print for *years* and loads of them that had been in libraries were pulped.

Seriously? That's awful! It makes me wonder what other good books have been pulped.

I found the last one (Run Away Home) completely by chance in a school library when I was teaching in 1996. It had been published in 1982, I'd never even heard of it and I'm her biggest fan!

Yeah, the school where I went to sixth form had a wonderful library, full of great books that were no longer in print (and I'm not even talking very old books, late 80s and early 90s). My favourite author was John Gordon, whose first book has just been republished by Orion, so I hope they will do some of his other books as well.

I had a really interesting discussion in my last internet theory and culture reading group about how modern technology is changing the way we view / judge / experience older media, specifically in relation to how we read books, but I'm too fuzzy-headed and arm-achey to explain it here. I'll try and gather my woolly thoughts before next we meet, if you're interested.

Yes, please! I'd love to hear about it.

I'm completely stumped about why publishers would take out illustrations. I do know that in realistic fiction, librarians are concerned about how the people look on the covers, because they're afraid kids won't check out the books in a few years if the clothes and hairstyles are starting to look dated. But since most books aren't in print long enough for the covers to go out of style, it doesn't make sense that the *publishers* would be worried about that.

I think that if Philosophers/Sorcerer's Stone had been the title of one of the later HP books instead of the first one, Scholastic might not have changed the title. I've noticed that they've quit Americanizing the British slang in the text. But like Divinemum said, I think most kids wouldn't have already known what a Philosopher's Stone was before they read the book.

And I totally agree with you about republishing older sci-fi and fantasy. I wish more publishers would bring back their backlists!

According to helensheep above, mums think a book is 'babyish' if there are too many illustrations. I think it all stems from the Reformation, when we threw out Catholicism and its beautiful image-based worship as well. No more icons, no more paintings on church walls, no more decoration - it was all about the Word, with a capital W. And pictures were downgraded into something only children would enjoy. Hence the massive snobbery that graphic novelists have been fighting against.

I totally agree with you about republishing older sci-fi and fantasy. I wish more publishers would bring back their backlists!

I might write to UK Scholastic and ask if they intend to republish some of the Point Fantasy and Sci-Fi books, since they've been doing that for Point Horror.

GAH. Totally sympathize with this. I hate it when publishers are being silly. And I know what you mean about the books series jackets--I totally agree that they should all be the same.

Thanks. I e-mailed the publishers, haven't heard anything back.

Actually, I read A Wind in the Door before I read A Wrinkle In Time. And I read every other book in the Prydain Chronicles before I discovered The Book of Three at my local library (one of the best discoveries ever.)

I am so angry with the change from Philosopher's to Sorcerer's Stone. And it permeates all the books! Even when they stopped changing the British slang for the American books, "Lemon Drop" became "Sherbert Lemon," but Philosopher was still Sorcerer! It's just so stupid *pant pant* Sorry, touched a nerve.

But I like The Golden Compass much better as a title than Northern Lights, which to me sounds like a textbook or something. Plus it fits better with the other two titles, n'est-ce pas?

Little Women was originally published in two volumes; I think she wrote the first part before Beth's real-life counterpart had died.

Emily! Why does Emily get shunted aside so mercilessly? That makes me sad.
But then again, who pays attention to Naoko Takeuchi's work before or after Sailor Moon?

Haha, I remember when I was a My Little Pony fan, I always used to wonder what Lemon Drops were, as there was a pony named after them. I did manage to work out that your 'cotton candy' was our 'candy floss'.

I don't think Northern Lights sounds like a textbook at all. :P

But then again, who pays attention to Naoko Takeuchi's work before or after Sailor Moon?

My friend papirini! Of course, it would help if she actually finished what she wrote.

I posted a filk on SQ in the Filk thread! :D

Well, I'll grant you candy floss. Cotton candy sounds like a big cotton ball stuck to your teeth *shudder* but candy floss actually sounds quite nice. Of course, I don't like the pink puffballs in any case, but...
Well, to me it sounds less imaginative than Golden Compass, at least.

I love candy floss, though I don't get to eat it much.

From someone who's read L'engle's post-Wrinkle stories and whose sister had all nine Green Gables books (Yes, even Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside) - agreed, agreed, AGREED.

It gets annoying when certain books of a series are touted and praised, while other books - no matter their quality - are dismissed to the point where many people don't even realize it's part of a series, or that the author did any other work besides that one book. One good example I can think of aside from L'Engle (speaking of which, who here knows that L'Engle actually wrote a book almost solely about Sandy and Denny called Many Waters?...Anyone?) is, amazingly, The Chronicles of Narnia. Many people in America didn't (and maybe still don't) know that TLTWaTW was the part of a series - and chronologically the second book at that. Most people haven't read past that one, and still less Prince Caspian. I remember a conversation I had with a co-worker when I worked at the theater, where I said that Prince Caspian was probably going to get made because the first movie was doing so well. The co-worker looked at me like I was insane and asked, "There was more than one?" For that matter, don't even start one The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters or the Space Trilogy....they're readily available in the US, but chances of actually finding people outside of Academia who've read them on their own free time are slim to none.

I could name several other series. Chances are, unless you're a raging Anne McCaffrey fan, you've doubtless heard of the Pern series but nothing of The Rowan stories, which I thought were superior to Pern. And of course there's Naoko Takeuchi - while I'm not big on Love Witch and never was, Toki*Meka is hilarious and cute (even just looking at the pictures), and I would've gotten PQ Angels if it were finished. But doubtless most people would have no clue what I'm talking about, even if they are Takeuchi fans, because that's not where the money is.

As for graphic novels and illustrations - I for one am glad that people are giving them a chance, at least here in the US. Obviously you've got Maus, but you've also got Ghost World and the unholy duo of Jhonen Vasquez and Roman Dirge. Then, of course, there's Marjane Satrapi....


Oh yes, one more thing about L'Engle. Dogstar is right - avoid A Swiftly Tilting Planet like the plague. A Wind in the Door is much better.

Who here knows that L'Engle actually wrote a book almost solely about Sandy and Denny called Many Waters?...Anyone?

*puts up hand* I did! ^^

Many people in America didn't (and maybe still don't) know that TLTWaTW was the part of a series - and chronologically the second book at that. Most people haven't read past that one, and still less "Prince Caspian".

Dude, are you serious? That's just wrong. O.o Over here, it's always promoted as part of a series, but Lewis WAS British, so that makes a difference.

It's nice to talk to people who know what I mean. ^^

Dude, are you serious? That's just wrong.

Unfortunately. The first book is promoted mercilessly, and while they've got a one-volume set with all seven stories in one book, that's in the sci-fi/fantasy section near Tolkien, not in the children's section where TLTWaTW (and the other books, at least when I was younger) is sold as a separate book. So it was possible for people to totally ognore all the other books.

And even though people now know that Lewis and Tolkien were friends, I'm still hard-pressed to find anyone who believes me when I said Middle-Earth is a tentative part of Lewis' stories as well (mostly in That Hideous Strength). Hardcore LOTR fans aside, people in America don't realize that they were that close.

And even though people now know that Lewis and Tolkien were friends, I'm still hard-pressed to find anyone who believes me when I said Middle-Earth is a tentative part of Lewis' stories as well (mostly in "That Hideous Strength"). Hardcore LOTR fans aside, people in America don't realize that they were that close.

That's just sad. Although not as irritating as that newspaper article that said Lewis was Catholic. AARGH, NO, Tolkein was the Catholic, Lewis was Anglican, big difference!

Hi there! I just had to comment on this thread, because I work for a bookstore over here in the US and can I just tell you how much I completely agree with this whole book in a series conversation? Oh, but MY favorite series faux pas is when the publishers decide to only rerelease half of or a couple of books in a series! ARGH! What if I read one and two, and would actually like to, as a logical human being, continue with THREE?!? Not four, not five, but *gasp* the NEXT one in the series! What a novel (pardon the pun) concept!

Grr...sorry. I really just had to let that out. And I hate hate HATE trying to figure out the order of a series if they are not numbered. Customers ask me about genres I don't read, and it takes me half a freakin' hour to figure out in what order I should sell the books to them!

Anyhoo, I think I have purged myself of my hatred of publishing companies. For the next five minutes, anyways. Thanks for letting me rant!

BTW, do you mind if I friend you? I've already stalked your journal and skanked your music meme, I feel it is only fair for you to have the same opportunity. :D

MY favorite series faux pas is when the publishers decide to only rerelease half of or a couple of books in a series!

Yeah, or when they decide they're going to re-publish a series in new editions when the series ISN'T EVEN FINISHED.

BTW, do you mind if I friend you? I've already stalked your journal and skanked your music meme, I feel it is only fair for you to have the same opportunity. :D

Heh, go ahead. And please comment on the music meme if you have any idea about the lines. :)

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