Out culture thrives on things that are new, although not really that different. Books, classic novelty of a medium though they are, remain no exception. The realization struck me as I was perusing the week’s Best-sellers.
Stephenie Meyer’s fantasy-action-romance Twilight books, all four parts of the trilogy, are at the top of the list. Vampires have been part of popular fiction since Anne Rice forty years ago, forbidden love has been a hit since Shakespeare’s chain-suicide classic, stories of people who secretly have mysterious powers has been proven marketable by Harry Potter well enough, and the Underworld trilogy of movies have marked the time ripe for vampires-vs-werewolves action. if it weren’t for the romantic theme, the rest of the plot elements all came from time-tested marketed fiction.
It also helps to have a movie of the first book released, with a sequel in the works.
5th Place. “Liberty and Tyranny: a Conservative Manifesto.” The demand for a book with this title is so high that it would have sold if it were a hollow binding that looked great on a shelf. Ron Paul’s “No IRS” campaign, a Maverick presidential candidate, Tea Parties, and a talk show host hoping “he fails”: all scream for revolution, and for a return to values that are now under scorn and scrutiny under the towering regime of Liberal Majority. It could only help that author Mark R. Levin is a talk show host himself.
6. “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.” Steve Harvey’s guide to “What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment.” Advice about the opposite gender shouldn’t be this hard to come by. If my dear readers want to know what a man thinks like, I advise them to ask one. Though I do admit, the title alone sincerely snagged my interest at Barnes & Noble. On the cover, his sharp grinning photoshoot picture looks decidedly un-transvestite. Maybe it was just the title, I worry. Perhaps my curiosity is all that prevents me from lampooning this self-help book.
9. “Angels & Demons.” Three words and one name decipher its secret to success. Dan Brown. Religion. Conspiracy. Movie. Surprisingly similar to Twilight, in all other senses. I cite 20th Century Fox as the key reason a 2003 book would sell more. Here’s a conspiracy: perhaps we shouldn’t be worried about gas and oil companies working together, where the latter fuels the former and both profit exponentially. Perhaps we should be worried about movie and book companies.
And 10. “Hungry girl: 200 under 200.” Weight loss is a thing I cannot relate to personally, having been gifted with a metabolism so demanding that I threaten to eat the crops of small villages unless they feed me fair damsels annually. But I have seen quite a few diets in my day. Why is there now another? I grew up surrounded by Atkins, hearing wisps about a South beach diet, walked through rooms with thin people watching The Biggest Loser, saw “alli” and leagues of dietary supplements hit shelves. Oprah has even expressed complete dominion over her many disciples by commanding “Obey!” to make her many maternal minions slim down. (Psst! Did you hear? The South Beach Diet now comes in “Supercharged!” Its release coincided ironically closely to “Crank: High Voltage.”) I knew a family down the street that cut new things from their diet every months at their mad scientist mother’s ministrations; at least I could always be sure they’d be skinny. But you’d think with the dozens of plans and vast industries dedicated to weight loss, Lite, Light and Diet products, lightly-colored yogurts and quick meals with the number of calories written on the front in cursive, and the painfully powerful social stigma against fatness at any degree, we’d be thin by now. Does any of it work?
Any of it?
Or are books now as predictable a medium as everything else we take in?
Stay tuned later this week for a review of something older, simpler, and possibly a former thorn in your side from your years of high school assigned readings.