Paperback Purgatory: Introduction

I had a thought the other day. I was thinking about the films of Ed Wood when it crossed my mind that there was no such thing as a “so-bad-it’s-good” book because… something. I don’t really remember what my reasoning was, but it was clearly wrong. There’s enough terrible fiction in the world to keep one amused for several lifetimes. The trick is to find the right awful books…

There’s a certain kind of book that seems to only ever come out in paperback. Trashy books, the sort you find next to the tabloids in crummy drug stores, or molding, perhaps, in your Aunt Delilah’s basement. Maybe left in a soggy cardboard box on the side of the road. The cover is usually some variation of this image: a bare-chested Fabio-types lounges in a field, a busty lady in period dress draping herself all over him. The cover and the author’s name are usually in shiny raised letters, swooping cursive font. The title is usually something like The Reluctant Affair or The Night’s Honor.

This is the trash of the book world, a weird and sleazy underbelly of steamy garbage. Poorly written and poorly conceived. Utterly disposable stuff. Shameful stuff you would never admit to owning. I don’t want to write off anything, though. Books mean a lot to me, and readers of books too. Maybe this stuff does deserve my attention… Anyway, how bad can it be?

I’m going to make an experiment of it. I am going to journey into the untamed heart of terrible bookdom. Why? Because it’s there, dammit! Will I make it back? Alive, perhaps, but certainly not unchanged.

The first book I’ll be reading is Lynsay Sand’s The Key. Here’s what it’s about: A shy English Lady is forced into marriage with a boorish Scottish highlander named Duncan Dunbar. Ugh. Fortunately for her she has the perfect defense against his unwelcome advances: a chastity belt. Her rebuff stings the grotty Scotsman, leaving him more determined than ever to woo her for reals. Will he discover the key to her heart and/or gentiles? One can only hope.

Sigh. Chastity belt verses highlander already? I was hoping to ease into this crap. Ah well, best way to learn how to swim is to go in at the deep end, right?

Oh, and this is a New York Times Bestseller. “Holy shit!” you say, “really?”

Really. Is that depressing? Eh… maybe. I think I’m past being surprised by people’s bad taste.

Here’s the cover:


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