Friday, December 14, 2012

How popular is TOO popular?

No, no, no.  I'm not talking about high school!  I'm talking books!  
(Also, I thought this picture was hilarious after the hate-watching of Liz and Dick.)

There is a process I go through from the time I fall in love with a book...and the moment when so many other people have read it that it becomes something different.

Love at first sight.
Book reviewers are a lucky bunch. We get to dive into books long before they hit the bookstores. We get this big padded manila envelope in the mail.  Inside is an unfinished proof, a galley, an advanced readers' copy of The Book.  Often these little gems will come with a handwritten note from the editor, who was probably the very first person to fall in love with the Book. The note is personal, and invites me to join the club, share in this little secret. I open the Book and get lost in a brand new world of never-before-met characters.  There is no influence of the outside world.  I didn't find Book on the Bestsellers List or the Staff Picks shelf at the bookstore.  No influence. Just me and the Book.

If I had a photo of myself at this moment, it would be me staring off wistfully as I remember when a love affair with a Book started in just this way. *sigh* I love Books.

The honeymoon.
So, I spend the next weeks and months writing reviews, talking to my friends, harassing my Indie bookstore manager - You're All Going To Love The Book as Much as I Do!!  I jump into 140 characters or less mode when another reviewer on Twitter exclaims his/her love of The Book!  Yay! There are a few more in our circle!  Isn't this exciting?   I am on cloud 9, because I have found The Book, the one that gets my heart racing and sparks my love of the written word all over again! I am not alone, but I am one of the select few who will bring news of The Book.

The silence. 
This is the period of time between my excitement of The Book and my excitement of the Next Book. I usually fall into a funk during the silence. It's like a book hangover. The period Between Books can be excruciating.  I miss the people from The Book, I miss where they live, their best friends, their romance, their witty banter. It's like going on vacation with a new friend, having the time of your lives, and then having to say goodbye for a while. 

The Rebound.
My funk sometimes reads as sadness, at which point I know the funk must end. At this point, I turn to my perennial favorites to bring me back up - Elin Hilderbrand, Janet Evanovich, Sarah Addison Allen, Maggie Stiefvater, Charlaine Harris, JK Rowling.  My own little literary sorority of writers that I can always count on to spark my passion for reading. 

The Debut.
The pub date is here, and The Book is everywhere.  First I see it in industry publications - ah, the circle is widening! Yes, the book clubs are coming!  The book clubs are coming! Soon the Book goes beyond the publishing family and is introduced to the general public, like a coming out party! The Today Show, Good Morning America, and, holy Toledo, Oprah's Book Club! I'm so happy for the author, and every time I see her on TV I feel like I'm looking at an old friend. 

The Media Frenzy.
Sometimes this happens by the time the paperback edition of The Book comes out, but sometimes it's even earlier. The Book is everywhere.  I can't walk into the grocery store without seeing it, or having someone stop me to tell me about it. It's like having a stranger tell you how great your own mom, yeah, I know, I knew her first!  But, I don't get possessive, because the Book was never mine alone, part of my job as a reviewer is to help introduce the Book to the world.  Get it out there!  But this is something more...something overwhelming.  

The Movie Rights.
This is the kiss of death for me and The Book.  Why?  I love movies just as much as the next person.  I'll tell you: Enter all the people who feel they are allowed to have an opinion on The Book because they have seen the movie.  And, oh so many people have seen the movie.  Why?  Because they've been hearing people like me talking about the Book for so long, "it must be a good story" (insert cringe here). Then they read the book...but it's not a pure reading!  Was Tom Cruise who you pictured as Jack Reacher? Was Katherine Heigl your Stephanie Plum?  My characters are tainted by Botox and bad dye jobs. 

The Popularity
Everyone has as piece of The Book. It's different for me now. It's not as pure, it's not as honest.   I'm still happy for the author, editor, and the entire team behind the project, don't get me wrong!  But there is smoke in the way. There are even those highly pretentious literary types who proclaim that it must be garbage because it's so popular among "regular people".  Garbage?  The Book?  No.  I wouldn't go that far.  My love for The Book has dulled, I admit, but I really liked it, didn't I? Am I not literary enough to have seen its flaws?  Is it a bad thing to be one of the "regular" people?  I'm not posting pictures on Facebook of my dream cast, so maybe I don't love the book as much as I thought I did. Those are what does that make me?  

The Not-So-Popular
Enter the guilt. I'm questioning if I still love a book as much as I once did because it was so popular.  By that logic, I must be thrilled when a book doesn't make it to the Bestsellers or IndieNext lists.  Not the case!  In fact, I want to stomp my feet like a sugar-high toddler - Why? Why? Why? - when a book I love isn't getting the recognition or audience it deserves. This is usually when I throw my hands up and admit that while I have a good eye for the next "big thing" I am a unique reader. 

The Best Of Lists
So, here I am. It's the end of the year and I'm doing my best to sort through my favorite books of the past twelve months.  I look at the other lists out there, because I know none of them will the same as mine, because there are no two readers alike.  But there is The Book. It's not quite a movie...yet...but it's very popular.  Everyone is talking about it all over again, and it's on all the Lists.  I have to go back and read my original review, to bring me back to that place before the hype, before the frenzy.  I loved The Book then. Did it stand up against the other books that came after it?  

Does it stand up in spite of it's own popularity?  

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