Monday, December 29, 2014

A silly game with just maybe an implication or two ...

I really do hate the idea of "high concept" and "elevator pitch" and all the other ways of saying "your book idea should be so reduced that no one needs to read the book, because we want people to buy books, not read them."

So as it happened I discovered that Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post, on her Twitter timeline (@petridishes) has invented a game that satirizes all that beautifully, under the self-explanatory hashtag #BooksInFourWords.

I was also appalled to find out how fast I could come up with them, and then it occurred to me that since they're sort of semicryptic, they might make a good guessing game.  So see how many of these you recognize from the four-word version (these are just the ones I thought of right away):
  1. Working class porking class
  2. Bad ring, long walk
  3.  Farmboy pirate snags princess
  4.  Gloria should return coat.
  5. No rabbits for Lenny 
  6. Jim gets boats wrong 
  7. Nobody groks Martian sex 
  8. One leg, one whale
  9. Nouveau riche? No Daisy.
  10. Picking fruit sucks too

    Highlight the answers below for any you didn't get. Mostly these are books I just thought of right away, not any special qualities for them other than familiarity.

    1. Lady Chatterley's Lover
    2. The Lord of the Rings
    3. The Princess Bride
    4. Heart of Darkness
    5. BUtterfield-8
    6. Of Mice and Men
    7. Lord Jim
    8. Stranger in a Strangel Land
    9. Moby-Dick
    10. The Great Gatsby
    11. The Grapes of Wrath

    Anyway, what this little game reallydemonstrates, as if anyone needed a demonstration, is that in four words, you are pretty much guaranteed to lose all the actual  meaning and everything worthwhile in the book. 

    Just like you do in a marketing slogan, or a "concept", or an elevator pitch.

    And that, my friends, is why books should not be sold like movies. In fact, if movies were not sold like movies, it might be worth going to the movies again. 

    And I hasten to add I do go to movies. Mostly to movies that aren't sold very aggressively, or where I don't know what's in the movie after I hear the pitch or see the trailer. But still, movies, books, plays ... if you can tell me what it's about and what happens in four words, or thirty seconds, or the time it takes to catch an elevator to another floor ... and tell me accurately and not obviously miss most of it .... what's the point in reading/writing/making/seeing it?

    If you felt like drifting on over to Twitter and tweeting more #BooksInFourWords, that might be fun, or not. After all, the whole point is to lose the point, somehow, in just four words.