No, I do not want a "reader's guide"

Imogen at the Guardian book blog has hit upon one of my biggest pet peeves in literature: the stupid shit that publishers put in at the end of a book.

"Was there any symbolism in the symbolic symbol in chapter 4?"
"Does it change your reading experience to know that The Wizard of Oz was a thinly veiled response to William Jennings Bryan's Cross of Gold speech?"
"Does Ishmael really want to be called Ishmael, or is that just shenanigans?"

She writes:
No back matter should contain essay topics or anything resembling them. I don't think even school texts should come with the literary equivalent of an answers page, posing patronising questions with embedded solutions – "Do you notice anything about the treatment of love/weather/eating in this chapter?" (rib-nudge). Any English teacher worth their salt should be able to come up with their own spider-diagram stimuli without having recourse to these dull and generic lists.
Amen sister.

Post-post Q&A:
How do you think Laura feels about this topic?


  1. I believe Laura's feelings on the book club questions posted in the back of the book dovetail nicely with Laurel's. Note the delicate structure of the sarcasm in the second paragraph:

    Was there any symbolism in the symbolic symbol in chapter 4?

    The author uses repitition to nice effect in order to underscore the banal nature of many of the questions posited in the back of these books, offering the reader insight into her perspective.

  2. A+ for you, Laurel--you have isolated the paradigm changing rage at these types of questions that Laura feels.

  3. Tear them out if they offend you. It's just marketing. When I get published (hear my positive self-talk?) I want a sticker on the front that says "reading guide included" so that the non-avid-reader people that I've attended book clubs with will have a reason to pick it up when it's their turn to choose a title. Not everybody was an English/creative writing major, after all. Some people- shhh-*leans in conspiratorially* didn't even go to college. Don't tell them I told you.