Yesterday, I went to Bremen with my Mom to buy some of those things you can only get in the city centre. It was still unpleasantly hot and I hate going out when it’s hot, but unfortunately I no longer have that much time to go into town, so I had no choice.
While I was there, I also hit the bookstores that carry English language books and picked up a bunch of books. You can see my haul in the photo below the cut:
Now shelving in the foreign language section is often a mess, even if the store divides the English language section further into genres. I suspect that the shelving information is not very clear for imported books (or not compatible with German shelving information), so bookstore employees shelve the books where they think belong, which can lead to some bizarre shelving decisions such as To Kill A Mockingbird shelved as crime fiction (well, I guess you could make a case for that) or Marisha Pessl’s Special Topics in Calamity Physics shelved in the SF section. One bookstore always shelves urban fantasy under “crime and suspense” for reasons best known to themselves. Yesterday’s notable misshelvings include Lauren Oliver’s Delirium and China Miéville’s Kraken in the general fiction section, while all three volumes of Fifty Shades of Grey were shelved in the SFF section. Just because it started out as Twilight fanfiction doesn’t make it fantasy, since there are no vampires or other supernatural beings in Fifty Shades. Another bookstore had the Fifty Shades trilogy on a special “Summer reads” table together with standard women’s fiction and contemporary romance novels, i.e. Katie Fforde and the like, which is not really where I’d put those books either, because someone looking for something like Katie Fforde and picking up Fifty Shades of Grey instead is likely to be shocked, either pleasantly or not.
Once I had spotted the Fifty Shades books, I called my Mom over. “See, those are the books I told you about. You know, the mother porn”, I said to her, which scandalized an elderly lady who was looking at literary novels in French.
My Mom looked at the Fifty Shades books with some interest and even read the blurb. “Those are pretty good covers”, she finally said, “They actually look classy.”
“Well, that’s at least part of the reason why they’re so successful”, I said, “Cause they don’t look embarrassing.”
When I come across misshelvings, I usually leave them as they are. Sometimes, I also put the book in the appropriate section, e.g. I put China Miéville in the SFF section where he belongs. Yes, I am one of those annoying people who rearrange bookstores, though even I couldn’t do anything about the table full of the latest outpourings of Thilo Sarrazin which were all over the front tables, since there were too many of them.
Yesterday, however, I came across a misshelving that was so problematic that I actually alerted a bookstore employee. For I found J.R. Ward’s Lover Unleashed in the foreign language YA section. This was not a case of a book that had been put back onto the wrong shelf by a customer, since the English language YA section is not even on the same floor as the regular foreign language section. Besides, they had three copies of Lover Unleashed in the YA section.
Now I have read only the first two of the Black Dagger Brotherhood books, but that was enough to know that those books aren’t remotely YA and really shouldn’t be shelved as such, since they contain fairly explicit sex, quite a bit of violence and occasional drug references. All About Romance gives Lover Unleashed a sensuality rating of “hot”. In short, it’s not really the kind of book I’d want a twelve-year-old to stumble upon by accident.
So I grabbed the nearest bookstore employee, showed her the books and said, “Sorry, but even though those books are about vampires, they’re adult books and really shouldn’t be shelved in YA.” The employee was either an apprentice or a part time worker, so she thanked me, took one of the Lovers Unleasheds from the shelf and said she’d talk to her supervisor, since she had no authority over shelving decisions.
By the way, I also found a beautifully illustrated Passover Haggadah in the foreign language section at one of the stores. The text was in English and Hebrew, so it theoretically belongs there, though the religious section might have been more fitting. This was not the first time I have seen a Passover Haggadah – I’ve seen a vintage example at university (One of my professors was an expert in German Jewish literature and the Haggadah was part of his personal collection). However, this was the first time I’ve ever seen a Haggadah for sale in a store, since they are not high in demand for obvious reasons. I guess you could see this as an encouraging sign.
Finally, here are some links:
I already gave you my mother’s fleeting impression of Fifty Shades of Grey and now it reappears in the linkdump as well, for writer Kathleen Valentine wonders about the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon at Parlez Moi Blog. Meanwhile, urban fantasy writer Jennifer Armintrout blogs her chapter to chapter reading of Fifty Shades of Grey.
At the Huffington Post, indie SF author Hugh Howey talks about his success and what it felt like when his SF series Wool was optioned by Ridley Scott. There’s also an interview with Hugh Howey at Book Brouhaha about finding indie publishing success with short fiction (which is pretty rare).
At Dense Words, freelance editor Harry DeWulf addresses the perils of writing fantasy novels like roleplaying games. I’ve never been a gamer, so I’m largely safe from this phenomenon. But I think we’ve all seen fantasy novels that read as if someone transcribed their RPG campaign.
Meanwhile, at the Atlantic Ian Buckwalter wonders where all the atomic monsters like Godzilla and its ilk have gone, since apparently the latest attempt at nuclear horror is just a standard run of the mill zombie/slasher flick set in Pripyat.
Jay Lake has a good post on realistic details in fiction, finding errors and how things that are absolutely accurate can sometimes confuse the reader. I usually avoid books set in Germany and written by non-Germans for this reason. Ditto for anything involving ships and ship building and for the comparatively rare books featuring translators and interpreters as heroes or heroines such as Anne Stuart’s Black Ice, because I know too much about the subject and the books just don’t work for me. By the way, I actually have done translations for military projects (it’s kind of hard to avoid), I’ve interpreted during negotiations about military projects and I have had at least one client (gladly he’s retired by now) whom I strongly suspected to be involved in illegal deals. But I’ve never had anybody try to kill me and never had any sexy spies/assassins show up to save me either, which is what happens in Black Ice.