Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tragic Life Stories.
Dave bloody Pelzer has a lot to answer for.....

WH Smith has a new system of labelling it seems. I was in the branch in Beverley the other day, turned a corner and stopped in my tracks, wondering whether some stupid prank was being played on me.

But sadly, it was not.
There, in front of my eyes was a new section, right next to the Biographies: Tragic Life Stories.

(Update to answer Pete and clarify - yes, a complete, in your face section. As legitimate as Biography, Travel, Science Fiction or Crime.)

Oh bloody hell. This refers to the hideous examples of autobiography and biography where every poor unfortunate thing to have been abused, tormented or taken advantage of is encouraged to pour their hearts out onto the page. I take nothing away from these poor souls, but the sheer proliferation of these books seems somehow to increase their degradation, to pour new suffering onto them by appearing to enter them into a competition where the winner is the one whose suffering titillates and enthralls you the most. (that's enthralls YOU, not me.)

It all started with a few books, each more shocking than the last, each portraying some poor soul's suffering as entertainment. Of course, most obvious of these was Dave Pelzer, a man whose suffering has been sufficient to sustain a whole series of novels, detailing his life through his suffering. Worse yet, he seems to be inspiring his other relatives to write their own stories as well.

And then of course we have the literary agents, never slow to spot and milk a trend. It's thanks to them that these books reproduced like bacteria on a petri dish. Where once there was only a few, complete with required white cover and tales of woe, suddenly there are enough to necessitate their own section of a bookstore.

Although, it's not just the agents who are to blame. Nor the writers. No, the ones who are really guilty in all of this are you.
You, who actually picks up a book like this and reads it.
You, who is never content with the one book of human suffering.
It's your fault that the bookstore now has a section specifically devoted to Tragic life Stories.
You should all be ashamed of yourselves.
But not too ashamed. If you start letting the shame get to you, you may find the agents knocking on your door and you may join the ranks of tragic life stories yourselves.

I'm off to get a drink. There's a bad taste in my mouth.

Update (22/08/07): Following Steve's comment that he'd already blogged this at the start of August about WHS, I realised that I'd written this post about Waterstones, when obviously it's WHSmiths. I have now changed it to read WHSmith. As I say in the comments - I am a moron. More drink please.


  1. Was this actually at the top of the bay in big lettering or just a strip on the shelf? If it's the former then it is a disturbing development on the part of Waterstone's marketing department. If it's the latter then I suspect it's a deeply ironic joke by some bookseller.

    On the plus side this does keep all that nonsense in one place so it doesn't pollute the rest of the shop. (And that emotional pornography really does sell like shit off a shovel...)

  2. yes, a section all to itself.
    very disturbing.

    and why didn't my tired, addled brain come out with emotional pornography - very succinct.

  3. Can't take credit for "emotional pornography". The term came about when Pelzer first appeared on the scene. Although for some reason I'm thinking I read it in an Alan Moore interview about something else...

    My memory is confused on the issue. Whatever, I came across it and it struck me as a very useful phrase that could be adapted to all manner of things.

  4. glad to see your memory is as shot as mine Pete!

  5. WH Smith is doing the same. I tried to make a joke about it, but it did look odd.

    Mind you, I'd rather they sold "tragic life stories" than "mind, body and spirit" books for the foolish and gullible.

  6. Ooops, missed Steves post about this.

    Do like his idea of getting some Joe Matt onto there. That would be funny.

    Of course, maybe I should admit now that I have only just this moment realised that:
    I am a moron,
    there is no Waterstones in Beverley,
    obviously it was WHS,
    god knows why I wrote Waterstones
    and did I mention I am a moron?


  7. WHSmug makes a lot more sense, though the fact that it's feasible for Waterspoons to do this is rather telling.