Thursday, January 26, 2012

Do you trade in Mass or do you have a mass of trade?

Someone said that they preferred to use the descriptive word soft-cover rather than paperback because they felt the word paperback connoted a cheap product, implying tawdriness and lack of quality. Their term: "dime-store". Personally I have always been fond of the dime store, and find nothing untoward with its offerings. 

The whole discussion came about because of a simple question , ""How does one know if it is a TRADE PAPERBACK or a MASS MARKET PAPERBACK? Anyone who has been in publishing  or book dealing for any length of time does not even have to think about this, but I bow to the purity of such a question asked in all sincerity.

Soft-cover vs paperback? Unless books are bound in plush or someone's old pillow, they are not soft. Paperback is hardly pejorative - but rather descriptive. The bibliographical word used is wraps - or wrapper (as far as I am concerned wraps is a misnomer as goes physically descriptive aptness - I have a whole diatribe about this very subject with which I shall not bore you)

But consider that, leaving aside any considerations of ideas and the such printed marks found within,  consider that paper is the very heart of a book, so why should a book not wear its heart on a sleeve, so to speak? In fact paper covers (wrappers) are nothing new - they have been around  at least since the eighteenth  century.

MASS MARKET PAPERBACKS (Think: revolving racks, etc.;  think: fit in your pocket  - hence the famous Pocket Book publisher; think: bright, often garish covers - think: what does this thinly clad woman on the cover have to do with Steinbeck?; think: collectability ... Much of paperback collecting is centered around cover artists such as Bergey, Meltzoff, Powers and Avati and such sub-genres as Good Girl Art and Map-Backs, but a goodly amount of collecting still focuses on authors):

Golden Age Size (approximately 4 3/4" x 6 3/8" ... used through the 1940s and 1950s. This is where much of the collecting occurs.)

Thereafter - Size is approximately 4 1/4" x 7" (recently some publishers have been experimenting with a taller mass market size)

TRADE PAPERBACKS (Think: Digest-sized; think "This does not really fit in my pocket very comfortably"; think: college courses and "serious" subjects, although any subject, including fictional are game; think: often stodgy cover decoration - this last has changed significantly through the years; think: low collectability - trade paperbacks have yet to establish themselves as a collectable field - there are exceptions within the field, which collecting activity is series-driven or author-driven)

Sizes vary ...  approximately 5 " x 8"  or 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" + -

Harper Torchbooks, for example, was one of the most commonly recognizably trade paperback series on the market. There are many others. Many, many publishers issued trade paperbacks.

In fact, one possible way to view the difference between mass-market paperbacks and trade paperbacks was that completely separate publishing concerns  sprang up to issue mass market paperbacks .. ACE, Pocket Books, Penguin, Lion, Lancer, Dell, Pyramid, etc., etc., etc.; while trade paperbacks were generally issued by already established trade publishers (publishing to/for the trade). Of course there were exceptions ... the history of publishing is a record of concerns established on constantly shifting sands.

We've seen what had been solely mass-market publishers enter the realm of hardcover publishing.

Then there are the OVER-SIZE PAPERBACKS - the beached giant squids of the paperback world.

8 1/2" x 11" ....  and larger.  Almost to a one these Awkward Things are an evolutionary mistake.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A giant cinematic, technicolor harrumph from me. I was reading a review for a new movie (which somebody brought to my attention). I was taken aback by the casual acceptance as normal  of the movie's puerile sensibilities, which to me seem nothing so much as gutterish. As in so many other modern movies, I find the Rabelesquean emphasis on bathroom humor and body functions offensive. I guess it is just one more thing that removes me from modern sensibilities and from the generation known as tweens. Actors and actresses are frequently seemingly adult, but they are constantly playing to the immature (of course - that is where the 'bling' is). I am shocked sometimes by the casual, flippant mentioning of private outre acts, which, at least in my time, would not even have been thought of, let alone talked about except by the most debauched minds, (or by psychiatrists, but they would, in their examination of such, have had the decency to guard their thoughts in a plain brown wrapper.) Has society regressed to an infantile state? I know it certainly has as regards political candidates. I guess where the one is the other is to be expected.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Paris Review tweeted about Minetta Brook, the subterranean stream that flows beneath Greenwich Village. It used to flow freely across the landscape, and was commonly used as a fishing stream by locals. Now it is viewable only through hidden grates in basements and sub-basements.  Most people are not aware of its existence.  

I am thinking that every vital literary neighborhood has its own subterranean Minetta Brook which percolates up and periodically infuses the landscape ... Likewise every literary work of strength, depth, and originality has its own Minetta.

One analyzes a literary work, seeking to plumb the subterranean stream of its creative genius - its minetta.