Bookish Topic Tuesday
There’s two types of book introductions. The first might give a little bit of background information on the book, whether that is setting the scene as in Obernewtyn, or explaining a little history in a biography. The second is where more often than not a different person to the author writes, usually, quite a long winded dissertation of the book and its significance and they’re favourite bits, and it’s put in a special anniversary edition of the book. It’s this second type I have an issue with. They always spoil things.
Technically speaking this sort of thing (the second type) is a foreword. A preface is written by the author themselves about the process of writing or why they wrote this, or to give thanks to their editors and family. And an introduction is again written by the author, but is more to set the scene of the book and it’s purpose.
It shouldn’t be surprising that they would spoil things especially when to talk about the book they have to discuss points in the book (something I should know all too well writing book reviews), but, sometimes it’s quite significant plot points that they just drop pretty quickly. It’s fine if you went out and bought the 50th anniversary edition of Lord of the Rings after reading it already, the introduction serves to remind you of the book and get you all excited again. But if you are reading the book for the first time, you don’t really want to know about all that. The introduction is supposed to introduce the book, not tell you what you are going to find out 250 pages down the track. It’s quite disappointing. And it’s easily fixed, and some wonderful publishers do it already, simply state below the introduction heading there will be spoilers or something to that effect. That way people can avoid it if they so choose, and then come back to it later. Or maybe they should leave it as an afterword.
Usually there is nothing wrong with the introduction and it can be quite interesting to see what the book means to someone else, and how they interpret it. These sorts of introductions are particularly evident in the ‘classics’. They find some completely random author to write about their personal attachment to the book, or perhaps explore the themes, and most of the time they end up discussing plot points, which is the job of the book, and not the introduction. I guess publishers feel that the classics need an introduction so that people are prepared for what is to come, since usually it’s confusing compared to modern texts.
And having a special anniversary introduction by the author is nice and fine, as long as they don’t give away plot points. But mostly it’s them saying how they never thought it would get this popular, and it’s touching that it has, and thanks to all the fans.
So what are your thoughts on introductions? Should they spoil things? Do you read them? Are they important?