When is a spoiler not a spoiler?
Maybe when it’s in the title of a book?
Moving on from The Satanic Verses I’ve started reading Guantanamo Boy by Anna Perera. Now THERE’S a title that gives us a very good idea of what the book is about, and I’m tempted to say it gives enough away to TECHNICALLY be a spoiler, but I have to admit it was the title that drew my attention. It suggested the book dealt with a topic that interested me.
The blurb confirms and expands upon the title – that the story is about an average teenage boy who ends up in Guantanamo Bay – prisoner of the Bush administration, after being snatched away from the other side of the world. More “spoilers”!
I have to wonder, if I’d been able to start the book with absolutely NO preconceptions, how different would the reading experience be? I suspect the whole shocking effect of the story would be increased if the boy’s kidnapping and transportation was unexpected.
But that’s the nature of the publishing beast today – and also the nature of the reader. There are so many books competing for our attention that we want to have some idea of what a book is about before we commit to it.
Where is the delicate balance between giving the consumer enough information to make them want to “invest” money and time, and literally spoiling their enjoyment by giving too much away.
Several years ago I found the the film The Sixth Sense was a big disppointment. A friend had told me how good the film was – especially the twist at the end. However, before I saw the film several things came together to spoil that ending. Firstly there was the knowledge that there WAS a twist. Secondly I read a review that described the opeining scenes of the film, but the final piece of the spoiler jigsaw was in the movie trailer’s famous line, “I see dead people”.
So even before I entered the cinema I had worked out the probable ending and everything I saw throughout the film confirmed my expectations.
But I seem to be in the minority these days. Promoters now think nothing of giving away important plot points in their advertising and it’s becoming more and more difficult to enjoy a story (in book or film) without already knowing what to expect. See a movie trailer and you’ve more or less seen the movie. Read the blurb and you’ve read half of the book.