Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Disappointment on the "C" Shelves

Did you know that Jackie Collins is still writing books, or am I the only reader who hasn't been paying attention? She's written 27 novels since 1968, including Poor Little Bitch Girl, released last year. That title is so amusing that I'm almost tempted to read it. But I have a feeling I have read it, and the title was the best part.

I thought Ms. Collins had faded into obscurity sometime in the '80s. But now I'm realizing that I simply stopped noticing her around the time I moved to Boston. In those quaint, post-Revolutionary days, Boston and Cambridge had bookstores on practically every block, all bursting with undiscovered treasure. I stopped noticing Jackie Collins simply because I was no longer limited to buying paperbacks from our small-town drugstore whenever I wanted something new to read.

In fact, Jackie Collins has sold more than 400 million books as of last year — and every title has been a New York Times bestseller. She's just never sold a book to me. And I will not be buying Goddess of Vengeance when it's released next (nor will I be reserving it from the library).

I've missed the JC boat, and I'm not about to jump in and swim after it. But, you know, more power to her. Sometimes a breathless, trashy read is the only thing that will hit the spot. It's a reasonable choice if you're stuck in a foreign airport, say, or suffering through a medical procedure. Clearly, she can transport her fans far from the real world. She deserves credit for skills, smarts, and discipline. She figured out how to give millions of readers just what they want, and she keeps doing it, well into her 70s. I can't even write a short story, dammit.

So, what's my issue with Jackie Collins? That her thick, hot-pink paperbacks are hogging all the space on the Borders shelves that should be shared with Wilkie Collins. I've been to both stores in town and found the "C" shelves loaded with Married Lovers, Hollywood Divorces, Lovers and Players, Deadly Embrace, and Lethal Seduction. I did not find a single copy of The Woman in White, The Moonstone or any other Wilkie Collins title, except one lonely volume of Armadale, which is also good, but is less likely to keep you up all night in his thrall as those other two. (I'll be checking out Barnes & Noble today, but I'm not hopeful.)

Moving along, after Wilkie Collins, Laurie Colwin's books deserve "C" shelf space, too. I couldn't find a single one of her wise and wonderful books, although there was new edition of Home Cooking in the cookbook section. But no sign of the new edition of one of my all-time favorites, Happy All the Time? For shame.

If you're in the mood for spine-chilling mystery, read The Moonstone. Craving a superb romantic novel? Read Happy All the Time. And then, by all means, indulge yourself with Jackie Collins's Drop Dead Beautiful, or whatever.

Update: I just read on Boston.com that the Boylston Street Borders is closing. Horrors! At this rate, I'm going to be buying my books in the drugstore again.

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