Every month, I spend at least an hour or two wandering the bookstore and reading the first couple pages of a lot of different volumes. All those books are sitting around waiting to be touched, and there are only a few I want to spend time with, holding them in my lap and caressing them with my eyes, carrying them around snuggled up in my bag. If you choose to get close to a book, you will spend hours and hours together.
Finding a book you can love means constant nitpicking and rejection. It means lots of disappointments on my part, as I search, but at least the books don’t get their feelings hurt.
That said, it sounds tough, but if I see any of this on pages one through three, there will be no page four for us. You’re out. Dead to me. And death brings us to number one:
1. Dead people revealing their secrets. Ghosts of any kind are a red flag. (Exception: Hamlet.)
2. Crime of any type. If I wanted crime, I’d watch “Law & Order.”
3. A setting or location other than North America, Europe, China, Japan, or India. I’m just not that exotic in my tastes. Ideal locations: England, Russia, New York City, Paris, London. For Kundera, I’ll allow any of eastern Europe, usually iffy territory.
4. Lady problems. Including but not limited to: gynecological and modern dating problems. If these is the most interesting thing about a lady, she shouldn’t have a book written about her. (Marriage problems are not dating problems. We leave in all the great novels about finding a husband.)
5. Man problems. Including but not limited to: romantic alcoholism and avoiding commitment. Zzzzzz.
6. The first page is one long paragraph. That’s tough to plow through.
7. The word “planet.”
8. The word “America” or “American.”
9. Cute children. (Exception: A Prayer for Owen Meany.)
10. Pets. My pets are fascinating, but everyone else’s pets are boring.
11. Sports of any kind, no matter how metaphorical. (Exception: The Chosen).
12. Magic of any kind. Including but not limited to: witchcraft, fabulous wacky nearly unbelievable coincidence, and anything vaguely “Halloweeny.”
13. Long description of the scenery or history of the place. I’m not big on geography, and I don’t care about the history of your people yet.