I read a book. It was an advance copy from a publisher, and it didn’t look like my kinda book. But the pub said it wasn’t her kinda book either, but she read it and was delighted and laughed like a drain. And, you know, sometimes it’s good to read not your kinda books.
Tell you the truth, I didn’t find it the best I’ve ever read. But it wasn’t at all bad. The pub was right; I laughed. The protag is an old guy who is smart and funny, and I am totally pre-disposed to get behind smart, funny old guys. But. Oh, but.
The protag is always talking about how he has a full head of hair.
Wow. Did I ever not like that. First, as we all know, old boys should be bald. There are very few exceptions to this rule. If they are unlucky enough not to be bald, they can slink away until they are grown-up enough to become bald, or maybe even get out the razor. Full-head-of-hair-as-important-characteristic is not likeable. There I was, reading along, laughing, and suddenly, he'd make a point of the hair thing again, and I would feel all cross and ill-disposed. (Also, this is a protag we are supposed to like. He’s no anti-hero. The hair thing isn’t an authorial conceit to show the protag’s, well, conceit. We’re meant to approve of the hair).
Then I checked out the author bio. He has, says his blurb, a multi-million-dollar business. Like that. Multi-million dollar.
I liked the book less.
Lots of people have talked about separating author from work – can you like the book if you know the author is a raging homophobe, that kind of thing (I made a typo there initially, and wrote ‘homophone’. Man, how eye hate their two bee homophones. Ewe?) But those are often things you learn about authors by really looking, not things they put in their bio on the back cover. But here is an author a) whose protag goes on about what a tremendously fetching and important thing his hair is, and b) who wants it noted in his bio that he has a multi-million dollar business.
So, the truth. I would’ve liked this book better if its author had not been someone who wanted me to know about his multi-million dollar business. It’s not the fact of having the multi-millions, but the wanting it to be part of the selected information people know about you, that turns me off it.
And the other truth. I would have been better-disposed to like it if I knew it had been written by, say, Carl Nixon. Nick Earls. Tim Winton. And maybe that’s the thing of it. I don’t know if Carl Nixon and Nick Earls and Tim Winton have multi-million-dollar businesses. Why? Because they don’t go on about it in their bios.
I don’t mean I would have done an about-face on a book I wasn’t all that keen on if the author had been a granola-munching pinko whale-saving do-gooder in Birkenstocks. It still wouldn’t be my kinda book. I would emphatically not have suddenly seen the light and realized it was in fact the greatest novel ever written, and the hair thing would still have got right on my wick. It doesn’t even mean I automatically like anything and everything Carl Nixon or Nick Earls or Tim Winton comes out with.
But I am pre-disposed to like it - yes, mostly because a)I know I have liked their other novels, but also because b)I am not put off by what they want readers to know about them.
I feel smaller and more confused as I go along. Help me out. Has reading what the author wanted you to know about him/her ever put you off reading the book? Are you brave enough to admit when you don’t like your favourite author’s latest? And, most importantly, what is up with these men and their hair? It’s that important? Really?