This week's questions is, "What book surprised you recently?"
Is it okay if I say Day One? I know I wrote it and all, but isn't the point of this to be all about me me me?
But I don't want to be a total narcissist, even though Day One just came out two days ago (does that make this Day Three?) and I want a billion people to buy it.
Anyway, yeah, Harry Potter, watch out. I'm coming for ya.
So, a book that isn't by me me me which surprised me me meee?
Well, there's Watership Down. When I was in seventh grade, I resisted buying Watership Down from the Scholastic Book Service flyer three months in a row because the description used the phrase, "…that's right, super rabbits."
Allow me to repeat that phrase, so it might sink in: "…that's right, super rabbits."
Though the acronym WTF wouldn't exist for decades, my response to the idea of super rabbits was definitely in the WTF category. So why did I end up buying it? Well, because damned if Scholastic didn't feature it in flyer after flyer after flyer. And that cover was so, well, fascinating. And the title. Watership Down? What's a watership? And where does it go down? And, damn it, how are super rabbits involved?
So, yeah, I ordered it, and it came in, and the back cover didn't mention super rabbits at all, which was either a good thing or a bad thing depending on one's expectations. As it happened, it was kind of a bad thing for me, because even though super rabbits were WTF, I'd come around to the idea. (Do they drive the watership? Is it just a boat, or what?)
So I set the book aside, and read Doc Savage and Nero Wolfe instead. But every now and then, I'd notice it on the shelf in my room, and I'd feel marginally curious. Somewhere in there I read Robert Heinlein's The Door Into Summer, and was like, Whoa. Time travel. Man, that is so cool. So when I finally picked up Watership Down and read the first line, "The primroses were over," I thought, "WTF is a primrose?" And then I did what many of us do: I turned to the last page and read the last sentence, which ends, "…the primroses were just beginning to bloom."
Naturally, from that, I concluded Watership Down was a time travel book! Featuring super rabbits!
Yes, I was a simpleton at age twelve, a condition I still struggle with.
Turns out Watership Down really surprised me. Not only was it not a time travel novel, the rabbits were just, well, rabbits. And "Watership" was some kind of place name, and a down turned out to be … a hill. (Fun Fact: the actual Watership Down is owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber.)
Of course, Watership Down also turned out to be one of my all-time favorite books, a fabulous tale of adventure with wonderful characters populating a rich, fascinating world. I have re-read this book dozens of times. At age twelve, I read it at least half a dozen times in a row, because I loved it so much I couldn't stand to have it end. The primroses would just begin to bloom, and I'd flip back to the front and they would be over. But Hazel and the others would be starting out together all over again.
Now, I know the question of the week is "What book surprised you recently?" Thirty-five years ago is maybe recent in geologic terms, but surely I've read a few surprising books since then. Of course, I have, but I decided to write about Watership Down because think about the circuitous route I followed from awareness to actually reading the book.
Pretty cover > super rabbits > WTF > no, thanks > still, cool cover > watership? > down where? > in the flyer again? > no, seriously, super rabbits? > still, cool cover > rabbits piloting the ship? > WTF > still > okay, what the hell > wait, NO super rabbits? > dissonance > Heinlein > time travel > primroses > time travel! > holy crap, this far better than I ever could have imagined.I guess what that proves is sometimes even crappy marketing works. (Seriously, Scholastic—super rabbits?)
By the way, have I mentioned the Day One release?
Speaking of being a total narcissist (I'm feeling rather free associatey today) on Tuesday I posted one million videos on YouTube, all of myself answering questions people asked me on Twitter. Actually there are only 18 videos, but that's still a lot of just me talking. Anyway, you can go watch them if you want, though I should warn you at least one person described them as "snoozers" and a whole bunch of people quit following me on Twitter after I announced the eighteen uploads.
Forewarned is forearmed, and all that.
(Note: though June 1 was the official release date, I understand actual books are currently en route to Consortium, thence to be distributed to your favorite bookstore and/or other retailer. So it might be a few days before actual books appear in the wild.)