How will today’s books ever become classics? And when?
It appears books have become perishable goods. And whatever your opinion about that may be, it feels to me as if it means books are no longer intended to last; to be here for your children, or grandchildren to read. When you die, out go your books, because they are old, and new ones will be published tomorrow, which makes them so much better.
It’s happened to me twice. No, three times, that I’ve been refused a review copy because it’s been too long since it was published, and why would anyone want attention in the shape of a review after several weeks?
I’ve obviously gone without requested books more times than that, but it’s the ‘no we won’t because the books is old’ response that sticks in my mind. The first one, to be fair, was years after. With the second book I’d missed that it was out and by the time I had un-missed it, a year had passed. The most recent time was a couple of weeks ago, when I was informed that the publishing company has a policy of not sending review copies out after one month.
As this was a publisher who has until very recently provided me with many fantastic books and got a high ratio of reviews in return, I was a bit hurt. I had known the book was coming, but not which publishers. Hence my inability to request a copy in time.
I think if it was me at the other end of the email, I’d have sent a copy out anyway. Unless there were hundreds of late requests. And if there were, maybe sending out lots of late books would repay itself. What I’m saying is, that an exception smooths future paths, whereas now I suspect we feel quite prickly on both sides of the mail server.
Having just finished reading a book from the same umbrella of imprints, and noticed that it was actually much older than I’d imagined (I thought I was a few months late, while it turns out I was a few months plus a whole year late…) and I was granted a copy with no moans about lateness at all, I don’t know what’s going on.
Another recent review for the one-month-is-too-late publisher, was only made possible when the author asked and discovered I’d not received a copy and ended up sending me one him/herself. It cost him/her £1.74 in postage which – while not breaking the bank – should not be necessary.
So when – and why – did books become so fragile and time-dependent? And what good will it do them? I recognise that a flurry of reviews in one week is quite nice, and possibly effective. But just as I enjoy a bunch of flowers better on its own, rather than ten bunches all at once, stringing the experience out ought not to harm a book’s future at all.
Reviewing isn’t an exact science. Occasionally publishers send books out months in advance, wanting early feedback and tweeting, to build up to the day. At other times they simply want to make sure a book gets time to be read and reviewed, and they want the review for publication day. Or, if it’s a few weeks later, they appear not to be angry.
Some time last year, I think, I reviewed a book I’d had waiting for about ten years. Yes, that was rather late. But the alternative would have been for me not to read it at all, or if I did, not to mention it here on Bookwitch.
As for the true classics, written decades or longer ago, there is no reason not to write about them, whether or not they have been re-issued by a publisher. A book is a book, not cottage cheese.