Spurious Book Catalogue, November

November 25, 2009 at 2:59 pm | Posted in Book Blather | 3 Comments

Get out your credit cards, ’cause it’s time to fill out the order form for this month’s Spurious Books!

A Brief History of Thyme – Gift edition, perfect for the foodie in your family.

Flush Life – Plumbers fight crime in New York.  Follow-up to TimeClockers.

The Da Vinci Cod – A fish appreciates Renaissance Art and develops conspiracy theories.

The Inheritance of Floss – A young woman contemplates the legacy of her family’s dental hygiene.

Madame Ovary – A woman’s marriage is destroyed by her insistence on having serial multiple births.


November 25, 2009 at 9:35 am | Posted in Book Blather | 21 Comments

What is fluff?

When I used this term recently, I had no idea it was so loaded with connotations.  (Sort of like when I first moved to California and thought “macking on” meant the same as “flirting with” instead of “making out.”)  It seems that ‘fluff’ is like ‘porn’ – hard to define, we know it when we see it, personal preferences may differ, some will have nothing to do with it, and the one with a problem is the one who looks at it more often than you do.

The first time I heard someone else use the term ‘fluff’ it was in the context of a sort of blind date to start a book group.  The other party said she wanted “to read fluff.”  (Trish and I took one look at each other and knew it wasn’t going to happen, not with this lady, at least, though she was perfectly likeable).  We all had a shared enthusiasm for V. C. Andrews and Stephen King.  When it came to book groups, though, one of us wanted to read for pleasure and entertainment only, while the other two wanted to read for the challenge, to expand our tastes, and to promote vigorous discussion.  There just didn’t seem to be much to discuss when it came to certain books – mystery, horror, or romance, for example – and when it came down to it, we agreed we would read ‘fluff’ on our own whether we had a book group or not.

Let me reiterate.  We easily agreed on what ‘fluff’ meant and that we liked to read itIt’s not a put-down.  When I think ‘fluff’ I think ‘beach read’ or ‘airport novel.’  Let’s face it, when we’re at the beach or traveling we need a different type of book than what we read when we’re at home.  We get down on our knees and thank heaven there’s a book of portable size and absorbing plot to take with us.  If it weren’t for ‘airport books’ there would probably be an upsurge of rioting in the security line – people would just go stir crazy!

Rewind a paragraph.  Trish and I decided certain books would be less likely to promote discussion in our book group.  That also does not mean they’re not worth reading.  For instance, mystery is one of my favorite genres.  The thing is, though, once everyone knows whodunnit there isn’t all that much to say afterward.  I also find mysteries are not good for re-reads.  We couldn’t do horror because some members of our group turned out to be exceedingly sensitive – one started having nightmares during Geek Love and had to quit reading it.  And, well, romance doesn’t really do it for us.

I’ll make a point I’ve made before.  ‘Fluff’ runs bookstores, most particularly romance.  I have an acquaintance who had worked at a B. Dalton’s for many years, and she said easily a third of total sales came from romance.  She said most small bookstores would have to close their doors if it weren’t for romance readers.  My mom reads Harlequin novels by the grocery sack load (this is literally true – when she fills a sack, she hides it in her bedroom closet) and she has for at least the last 30 years.  My dad and grandma read science fiction, crime, and action thrillers, also by the grocery sack load.  (Those go out to the garage).  My nana read Reader’s Digest Condensed Books.  If it weren’t for genre fiction readers, I doubt I, for one, would be interested in books at all.

Now let’s talk about chick lit.  I believe all chick lit is fluff; if it wasn’t fluffy, it wouldn’t be chick lit.  Again, this is not a put-down.  I read almost nothing but chick lit when I was in college.  I appreciate the positive approach and the focus on landing the great job rather than the great boyfriend, though when I was single I wanted to read about that too.  I know that for some reason the concept that chick lit is fluff is an explosive one.  Simply put, I think it’s absolutely terrific that something designed for pure entertainment carries an implicitly empowering message: girls, go out and work for whatever you want, and the world is yours.  It’s great.  Now that I’m married and have a family and a career, though, there’s less to grab my attention, just like a gal of 25 wouldn’t care to read about my travails with cleaning the gutters, saving for Sweetie Junior’s college fund, or planning for retirement.  (Come to think of it, I don’t want to read that, either!)

‘Fluff’ means “a book I personally find less challenging than my normal reading.”  I don’t think it would be possible to ascribe this term to someone else’s reading, because ‘fluff’ is a term that crosses genres.  When I use the term, take it to mean “whatever you think of when you want to read something light.”  The reading we do in the bathtub after a long day; the reading we do when we’re on vacation; the reading we can’t resist or do purely in secret – that’s our fluff.  It’s the jeans-and-T opposed to our work clothes.  A world without fluff would be a world without Oreos.

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