A: When it’s a spoiler.
I’ve been reading a lot of classics over the last couple of years, filling in the gaps on The List, and the spoiler-introduction is something I’ve come across a few times. I’m here to say: I don’t like it.
For anyone who doesn’t know what I mean, I’m talking about editions of a book where the publishers have hired some renowned intellectual to provide an introduction to the novel, setting the scene in terms of the time period, the author’s life or whatever else they feel is relevant. These introductions can be quite interesting but more often than not they also contain details of the plot which would otherwise have been a surprise and can be central to building suspense and telling the story properly.
Now I understand that a lot of the classic stories are so well known that you might expect people to already know what happens in the end and this is often true. For example, I haven’t yet read Pride & Prejudice but I have a fair idea that a certain Ms Bennett and a certain Mr Darcy are probably going to come across each other at some point. But this doesn’t mean that I want the intricate plot details spelled out before I’ve even started.
I’m sure many of you out there will agree when I say that I hate spoilers. One of the low points of my reading career was when a schoolfriend who’d got hold of one of the Harry Potter books before me said she would “just tell me the initials” of the person who died. An entire book ruined ladies and gentlemen (and a friendship on the rocks).
I’ve spent every Wednesday for the last few weeks with my fingers in my ears in case someone gives away the result of The Great British Bake Off.
Are you getting it? I hate spoilers!
So I really, really, really hate it when some well meaning publisher ruins a plot right at the front of the book. The first few times I picked up a book with an introduction I would read it as a way to prolong the delicious anticipation before diving into the text but after The Green Mile I learnt my lesson.
The thing is that these introductions do contain interesting points and these days I often go back and read them once I’m done with the story so I’m not against the content per se I just think they should be at the back of the book so that we aren’t fooled into reading them too early.
This morning I started The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes and in this case the introduction was preceded by a warning from the publisher to read the book before the introduction if you value “surprises, secrets and revelations that all narratives contain”. If I value them? I’m reading a mystery book, I would say that’s elementary my dear Watson. I appreciate the warning but wouldn’t it make more sense to move the introduction to the other end of the volume to prevent any unnecessary upset?
In a similar vein I’ve often had plot details revealed by the notes section. You flip to the back expecting the explanation of a quote or an unfamiliar word and instead are told that this sentence preshadows Mr So-and-So’s demise in a poetic fashion. Well thanks very much.
Spoilers are everywhere and it’s incredibly hard to avoid them so I could really do without having them forced on me in this manner. Bah! Humbug! (Said someone, in some book but far be it from me to tell you who.)