Dear everyone: Please stop writing memoirs.
That’s the gist of a recent piece in the New York Times, which argued that most autobiographies being penned these days are boring books by boring people about boring, boring lives.
Agreed. But why stop there? There are many other books we can do without.
Copycats. I get it—you’re bummed that you didn’t think of Sh*t My Dad Says, the Twitter feed that some guy has parlayed into a sitcom, a bestselling book, a Happy Meal and a Nobel Prize (I assume). Your frustration does not give you the right to burden us with Sh*t My Kids Ruined or Crazy Sh*t Old People Say, both of which are actual books. Do you have any idea how many variations on Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother we’re about to be inundated with? Battle Hymn of the Kitten Father. Power Ballad of the Heavy Metal Momma. And those are just the two that I’m writing.
Sequels and spinoffs. Congratulations—you just wrote a bestseller. We now look forward to you exploiting and ultimately betraying our goodwill with your future efforts. Consider What to Expect When You’re Expecting, which has become a bible for pregnant women, even though its relentless hectoring promotes self-loathing and fills every mother-to-be with the urge to slam the authors’ faces onto the business end of a waffle iron. What to Expect has spawned no fewer than 11 sequels, including What to Expect: The Toddler Years, What to Expect Before You’re Expecting and What to Expect When Despite All This Folic Acid Your Kid Grows Up to Be A Massive Disappointment, only one of which I made up.
Self-help books. Authors in this popular genre have been struggling to find new and original ways of taking 300 pages to say, “Stop eating so goddamn much.” In an effort to reach an audience, they’re targeting smaller niches with increasingly specific titles along the lines of Against the Grain: How to Lose Weight, Gain Confidence and Learn the Basics of Woodworking. Sure, we all have fun staring at people as they browse the self-help section and maybe occasionally yelling “Yep, that’s the one you want!”—but let’s face it: There are already thousands of self-help books and most people are still fat, lazy and useless with a band saw. Let’s cut our losses.
Comic strips. Attention publishers: just because Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side have been republished in their entirety—in handsome and heavy volumes, perfect as keepsakes—does not mean we are crying out for 250 kilos’ worth of Hägar the Horrible. Even The Family Circus is now being republished—every last strip of it—and that comic was about as funny as genital leprosy.
Recollections of former politicians. Losing an election doesn’t make you a statesman with a unique perspective on world affairs. It makes you lonely and unemployed. Henceforth, we will tolerate only political memoirs in which the author tells us what really went down. (“Tony Blair walked through the door with a bounce in his step and I punched that insufferable twit right in the testicles.”—Gordon Brown, from the book he should have written called God, How I Hate That Tony Blair.)
Historical fiction. An old tome belonging to George Washington holds a remarkable secret THAT MAY ALTER THE COURSE OF HUMANKIND!! Alas, such novels only encourage Nicolas Cage to make more bad movies.
Any book that reveals what you learned about life from watching your dog die. Read two or three of these and you’ll start rooting for the cancer.
The absurdly lengthy series. The success of Sue Grafton’s interminable alphabet series (B is for Burglar, S is for Sitting in the Dark with a Loaded Pistol on My Lap and Regretting Having Conceived This Series, etc.) will surely encourage James Patterson to write a series of novels based on each of the 118 chemical elements (Rb is for Rubidium!). Could take him a whole month.
Books by famous authors that aren’t actually written by famous authors. A recent example of this burgeoning genre: Dead or Alive, which is credited to “Tom Clancy with Tom Blackwood.” It’s like new music being sold as a Rolling Stones album when in fact it was recorded by Arcade Fire while Keith Richards napped on the sofa.
Hold on, that one’s actually not a bad idea.