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.