Sunday, January 21, 2018

Elvis Costello and the Attractions – "Everyday I Write the Book" (1983)

Chapter one: we didn't really get along
Chapter two: I think I fell in love with you
You said you'd stand by me
In the middle of chapter three
But you were up to your old tricks 
In chapters four, five, and six

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

Who are they kidding?  We judge books by their covers all the time.  Publishers know that, and design their book covers accordingly.

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Dust jackets for books are a relatively recent invention.

Until a couple of hundred years ago, publishers sold books as unbound sheets of paper.  The customer (who was usually relatively affluent) usually ordered a customized binding for his book.

The earliest dust jackets were akin to gift wrapping.  They enclosed the entire book, and were torn open and discarded by the book’s owner.

An early dust jacket
Modern dust jackets began to appear in the 1850s, and had become common by the 1880s.

After 1900, publishers began to spend less money on book bindings.  Colorful paper dust jackets were relatively cheap to produce.

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American women read more than American men – a lot more.  

“I’ve read at least 100 books in the past year.  Seriously.  Probably more like 150 to 200,” one woman recently wrote on a literary blog.  “My husband?  I'm guessing zero, unless you count picture books and comic books he has read to the kids.”  

(Two observations on that comment.  First, if she’s really reading 150 to 200 books a year – which I doubt – I’m guessing most of those books would make Fifty Shades of Grey look like great literature.  Second, I’d say the over-under for that marriage is maybe three or four years.)

The gender gap grows even wider when it comes to fiction.

“When women stope reading,” the British novelist Ian McEwan once said, “the novel will be dead.”  

Men account for only 20 percent of the fiction market in the U.S., Canada, and Britain.  I’m guessing that a larger proportion of the books read by females are literary novels.  (Book clubs consist almost entirely of women.) 

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You can a book that’s being marketed to female readers by its cover.

Novels set in Italy are usually intended for female readers.  

Any book with “amour” or “Provence” in the title is almost certainly “chick-lit”:

Books with the names of bucolic English villages (real or imagined) in their titles are also books intended for female readers – especially if they have something to do with a church and are set during World War II:

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Mystery is a popular genre of novel these days, and it’s usually easy to tell a mystery that was written for women from one that was written for men.

A book that features a protagonist named “Aurora Teagarden” and has a cat on the cover is definitely intended for women:

This mystery novel is obviously trying to ride the coattails of Gone Girl.  That mega-bestseller was a woman’s book, so it’s safe to assume that this one is as well:

Here’s another mystery for female readers with a gull-related title:

Here’s one more mystery aimed at female readers:

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This cover doesn’t look like one that would appeal to women, but women are very into vampires – so I’m assuming this a women’s novel:

Women are into dinner parties, too – hence, I’m betting this is chick-lit.  To take the analysis one step further, I’d say this book is mostly intended for young women from New York City (or young women who wish they lived in New York City) – the choice of that apartment building for the cover was no accident:

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The cover of this Danish mystery novel makes me think it’s not really a book for women – although I’m guessing it will be read by as many women as men:

In case you think that cover looks familiar, you’re right.  The publisher is obviously hoping that its cover will subliminally appeal to fans of this very well-known Scandinavian thriller:

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This cover mystifies me, but odds are that it’s intended for female readers: 

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“Everyday I Write the Book” was released in 1983 on Elvis Costello’s eighth studio album, Punch the Clock.  It’s not much of a song – it’s far from the best song on that album – but it was Costello’s first U.S. top 40 hit.  (Go figure.)

Here’s “Everyday I Write the Book”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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