Friday, September 21, 2018

Paperback Reader

As part of our continuing efforts to put our house back in order after the fire that gutted it, I put together my side of the new study that was our former dining room. I discovered the top shelf was the perfect fit for my collection of Game of Thrones beers from Ommegang Brewery and that the bottom two shelves were just right for paperbacks and hardcovers, respectively. I'm very happy with the way it came out.

In addition to the beer bottles, two Coke bottles (I'd prefer Pepsi) emblazoned with my childrens' names occupy the second shelf along with my paperbacks. Yes, my two favorite Jedi Masters: Obi-Wan and Luke overlook my workspace, acting as sentinels for my collection.While my book collection pales to others (granted, I lost a ton of books in the fire), I'm happy with it. I also noticed my propensity to mass market paperbacks. There's something about them that still make me smile when I look at them.

I love mass market paperbacks. Long the realm of beach reads, media tie-ins, romances with covers featuring buxom, bodice ripped women hanging from shirtless, well-proportioned men, binding stretching epics and countless westerns and "men's action" novels, the mass-market paperback was where I cut my teeth as a reader. Until recently, hardcovers were too expensive and too bulky. A mass market paperback was affordable and mobile. One could be easily shoved in a backpack, pocket or Wegmans apron. I still love them today, even though I own a Kindle and prefer hardcovers. There's still an appeal though to the mass market paperback. The smell. The feel. The off-white/gray, newsprint like pages. The flexibility of the cover and the spine. The tiny maps and pages of character lists or glossaries. It still thrills me a little bit. And the covers. They had weight.

The almost always garish covers meant to grab the attention of the budget minded consumer, giving you just enough of a glimpse of what to expect between those flimsy, cardstock covers for a mere $3.99. Between those covers I felt the angst of the tortured Tanis Half-Elven as he led the companions to defeat Takhsis, followed a hobbit out of his hole where he found a magic ring and more than once found myself drawn to the salacious pairing of a wealthy man's lonely wife and the mysterious, handsome stranger there to buy horses from her husband. These were my classics (except for To Kill A Mockingbird and Gatsby), my literary canon. And I don't regret the education in the slightest.

From the countless Forgotten Realms tie-in novels to the pulpy crap my father picked up at garage sales (Gor. Don't get me started on Gor), these books were formative parts of my development as both a reader and a writer. Dragonlance and A Game of Thrones were both mass market paperbacks and their influence on me is marked in every word I write and every page I read. I dreamed, still dream, of seeing the unwieldy ZELEZNIK taking up the spine of one of these books.

Mass market paperbacks are often the realm of the midlist or the little known debut author. There are gems to be found. I implore you to go find them. Go out and buy a mass market paperback. Even if you're a hardcover or Kindle reader. Sure, they aren't $3.99 anymore, but they're still easier to carry than a hardcover, you don't need to charge them or shield them from the sun.