‘You’re just buying that book because of its cover!’

18 Oct

“You’re just buying that book because of its cover,” my friend Abby told me at Barnes and Nobel last night.

“You bet your butt,” I said.PardonMyBody

The book in question: “Pardon My Body.” It’s a Harlequin romance, but the cover looks like a pulp crime novel: slim, beautiful, busty brunette with one shoulder of her red dress slipping down, a tear up to there to reveal the black lace stockings, and a gun.

Who doesn’t love them some old school pin-ups? This book didn’t even pass the First Line Test — “I was driving more or less automatically and it was a little time before I realized that I’d crossed the state line into Connecticut” — but it was one of the first books Harlequin ever published, and all the page edges are red. So really, how could I not spend $5.99 to own this book?

In case you hadn’t figured out what the First Line Test is, it’s what I consider one of the best ways to gauge if a book will be good. Forget the cover (even though it can totally get me, obviously), and forget the description on the back: Just read the first line.

Consider this first line  of “Three Dog Life,” a memoir I just finished in bed this a.m. by Abigail Thomas about life after her husband is hit by a car and suffers permanent brain damage: “This is the one thing that stays the same: my husband got hurt.” Simple, as far as first lines go, but powerful. You want to know more.

That first chapter is barely three pages long. What follows at the beginning of the following chapter is one of the most amazing descriptions of falling in love I’ve ever read:

“My husband and I met tweleve years ago after he answered a personal ad I placed in the New York Review of Books. We met at the Moon Palace restaurant on Broadway and 112th Street. It was raining, he carried a big umbrella. He had beef with scallions and I had sliced sautéed fish. It took me about five minute to realize this was the nicest man in the world and when he asked me to marry him thirteen days later I said yes. He was fifty-seven, I was forty-six. Why wait?”

At the end of the book, one sob escaped me. I pressed the book to my chest, as I find myself doing with any book that whispers sweet nothing or sweeter somethings in my brain to make me fall in love with it.

And then I picked up “Pardon My Body,” a book that promises to illicit no sobs, but excites me nonetheless.


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