Requiem for Smart People

Was at the airport yesterday sitting through a three-hour delay.  I desperately needed a book, so I went to the airport gift shop.

Desperate though I was, there was not one book I could buy.  They were all dumb crime novels or romance novels or mystery novels.

I noticed something else about all their dumb books. All the titles had bumpy letters, the kind you can feel with your fingers.

That is how I know a book is dumb.  If I can feel the title with my fingers.

If you’re not blind and reading Braille, you should not be able to feel the title of your book.

I went back to my seat, bookless.

And noticed everyone around me reading books.

That all had bumpy letters.

I weep.

40 thoughts on “Requiem for Smart People

  1. Personally, I’m hoping I get a Kindle for Xmas so I never have to go bookless in public again.

  2. The last time I went on vacation, I packed as many books per square inch of suitcase as clothes, because I don’t read bumpy-titled books. There are no books out there (“Out there,” to me, means more than ten miles from NYC.”) Even in cities, small bookstores are dying. I make my living in publishing, and I’m scared.

  3. OK, my dirty little secret is that I used to read Star Trek novels. Ironically, with Star Trek novels, the only ones remotely worth reading had the bumpy letters; it was the smooth-titled books that had to be avoided.

    Those are some hours I’ll never get back, but I was in grad school at the time, looking for something brainless to read in the few moments I wasn’t reading academic journals. So sue me.

  4. Well… if you *were* a smart person you’d never go anywhere without a spare book. Besides carrying one or more traditional books, I generally have ~12 books on my palm pilot, and 2 or 3 on my phone. [and you’d also know better than to sneer at other people’s taste – some of them might even like Pearls books!].

    …and Jonathon – nothing wrong with liking space trash – I still do, so what?

  5. How did you know the books were dumb? Did you read the first few paragraphs?

    Frankly, I’d rather read a dumb book than no book at all if I’m stuck somewhere. At least it passes the time!

  6. You should just read Twilight and get it over with.

    (btw– your comic makes me so happy. Finding your blog was like, the highlight of my day, the day I found it.)

  7. The same people think Pearls is a documentary. Sounds like unreasonably high expectations by someone who should know better.

  8. they read those books due to their inability to write their own. theyre too stupid to do it, and lack motivation due to reading those books. its a cycle, Maybe?

  9. Note to self: when published, refuse any book cover designs with bumpy titles, so that Mr. Pastis will read it and commentate on it in his blog so that millions of Pearls readers will become addicted and therefore making a best seller like Rat’s novels are bound to be one day.

  10. Dude, what you need to do is fly through airports that have real bookstores, like Powells. Airport gift shops are only good for souvenir t-shirts, “aw-damn-I-forgot-to-buy-a-gift-for-the-wife/kid” presents, and over-priced drug store items in ridiculously tiny packages.

  11. Some of the bumpy-letter books are readable. But it’s the ones with funny-shaped holes in the covers that make me flee.

  12. I am totally with you on this one….
    I’m sure they probably had shirless men on the cover as well or handcuffs, or possibly even both.
    Love your BLOG…. I’m sad when there isn’t a new posting every day.

  13. Of course, another Kindle advantage is that no can see that you’re reading a Star Trek novel. And what would be more appropriate than reading a Star Trek novel on a device that looks very much like something that Yeoman Rand hands to Kirk along with his coffee every morning?

  14. Hey Stephan! “U is for Undertow” by Sue Grafton is really good. But I guess it’s a mystery/crime novel. 😦 Go ahead and try a genre you don’t ordinarily read; you may be surprised!

  15. You do realize that most authors have absolutely no control over what the cover of their book looks like, right?

  16. Bookstore didn’t have a copy of your “Pearls” collection, did it.
    The worst thing about airport book sellers is that they charge the cover price.

  17. So…my Ann Patchett book I have here has bumpy letters. But the Flannery O’Connor bio does not. So I’m guessing I should read Flannery bio first?

  18. And here you had Rat trying to write romance novels a few times, ahem ahem ahem.

    By-the-way, I’m happy to see Mr. Snuffles making appearances this week!

  19. Totally. No books with raised lettering (lucky for me, Stephen King novels don’t have that in the UK) and no restaurants with photos of food on their menus.

  20. Next time, go ahead and buy one. In fact, buy the cheesiest, most intellectually devoid title there. Something you wouldn’t normally be caught dead buying can be a wellspring of inspiration for satire. Ever see a Uwe Boll film?

  21. What Mr. Pastis fails to realize is that those bumpy-titled novels exist for one purpose: to keep people from talking to one in an airport. The smart travelers buy a bumpy-titled novel to blend in with the crowd. The less smart bring an actually interesting book from home or carry a Kindle, two sure conversation-starters (e.g., “Oh, do you like Dostoevsky? Say, I’ve been thinking about buying one o’ them gizmos…”etc.) The least intelligent decide in a fit of pique that they aren’t buying a camouflage novel with bumpy lettering because they refuse to look like an idiot, in which case they sit empty handed in the airport and (worse) on the plane, which is the air-traveler equivalent of having a large, blinking sign over one’s head which reads, “Talk to me! I like chatting with moronic strangers while trapped inside a flying metal sausage for hours!”

    Next time, Mr. Pastis, buy the book.

  22. So these bumpy titles, these bumpy titles were on the book jacket? The REMOVEABLE book jacket? Hmmmm….

    Or were you perhaps shopping for paperback books? Once you buy the book, the clerk would be happy to dispose of the bumpy cover for you. Just a thought.

    Or you could always spring for the $5 headset to watch some heavily-edited Will Ferrell movie. Or wrap up in a used airplane blankie and rock yourself to sleep in your 27 square inches of allocated space.

  23. What if there is bumpy lettering on the side of the book?

    – the only book I own with bumpy lettering is “The God Delusion” and it has bumpy lettering on the side.
    Does that make it worse then bumpy letter covers? I THINK NOT!

  24. Get a Kindle guy. You can download all the sample of those bumpy letter covers book and laugh at them without spending any money. You can also download several books before getting to the airport, no need to browse the airport book store.

  25. This bumpy-title rule doesn’t really apply to children’s/YA books. Just saying. Also, it’s not so bad to buy the book. Sometimes they are so bad that it’s fun to read.

  26. Buy A Kindle… no more bumpy titles.
    In fact since you hate to interact with people… you can sit there in your seat and have it auto delivered to you.

  27. I hear ya. Ah the times I would linger for hours in a bookstore, browsing, settling down to read a chapter or two out of my piles … eventually deciding on one or two or even three books.

    I was in Borders yesterday and could not find one single solitary book that I wanted to buy. “Are You There Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea” … frankly I find her neither funny or clever, merely rather pathetic. And, yes, we have the rows and rows of bumpy titles. The cookbooks still look great (but hardly make a good flight read).

    I think I’ll stick with patronizing the rapidly dwindling cool used book stores.

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