Searching online for something to read during lockdown, I noticed that Romance was on sale, for as little as £1 in some cases. If only it was always that easy.
Science Fiction was on offer for only 99p, the lower price presumably fixed by a realist, who realised romance is always more costly. It's well known that romantics are incurable, and easily persuaded to go the extra mile, or spend the extra penny, except in Scotland. Science fiction must have a dwindling readership nowadays, in the face of scientific facts, some of which you just couldn't make up (or they'd be science fiction.)
I was intrigued by the idea of Fantasy for sale, how broad a church would that be, and would it include San Marino winning the World Cup? Or any cup. How to Lose Weight by Eating Chocolate? Selected Whiskies that Promote Good Health? A person can dream, can't he? I would settle for just one Health Whisky - as long as it was Famous Grouse, I wouldn't grumble as I gazed into my crystal goblet.
It has already been established that future books dealing with the pandemic can no longer be called Year of the Plague. At the very least, that title must be altered to The Plague Years, not too difficult for typesetters to reconfigure, I imagine, unless they've been at the health whisky.
Under Literature on Sale, what caught my eye was 'Reluctantly Home' -- did that refer to the Lockdown or the Freedom, the past or the future, I wondered? Reading the blurb: "Dealing with the past -- and finally facing the future", I saw that I was right. I'm guessing "You should get out more," will no longer be the punchline for a joke.
A schoolchild once informed me that he always judged a book by its cover because this often meant he didn't have to read its contents. He proved his claim to me by referring to one of the books on the syllabus. "Treasure Island," he said. "It's about treasure on an island." He may have mistaken my slumped head for a nod of acquiescence.
And yet that child's claim has eventually come true to a certain extent. I would still draw the line at A Tale of Two Cities (since neither is named in the title) but when I look at the cover of Batman v Superman, I feel I already know the essential features of the plot. Both protagonists mentioned in the title, you see, and that 'v' suggests there may be trouble ahead.
"The person who has not pleasure in a good novel," said Jane Austen, "must be intolerably stupid." Jane never minced her words. Her first six novels were published without her name on the cover (she could have learned a thing or two from Madame Bovary, if it had been written then) and earned her a mere £631 before tax, grr. The rewards of selling romance have risen considerably since then, so perhaps we should snap up those £1 bargains while we can. It's a well-known fact that prices rise steeply once pandemics subside. Booksellers, alas, have no romance in their souls, not even at today's prices, and their favourite music is "ka-ching!"