The next instalment of my column for The Sunday Guardian
Publishers have started printing advertisements on book covers in a move to help their industry sustain development and survive.
I have three words for those planning to adorn book jackets with advertisements. Context is everything. In the same way that it would be inappropriate to feature a commercial for beer on the Disney Channel, it would be counter-productive to display an ad for a fine Cabernet on the cover of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Here, in the interests of helping the publishing industry to survive, are some examples of how to go about it. Exclamation marks are optional.
On E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India: Now, see India like never before. With Royal Quested air-conditioned tours that take you away from the heat and dust of the country and keep you safe and cool behind glass windows. Why venture into smelly caves and shake hands with unhygienic natives when you can simply lie back and savour the sights? Hurry: the first 100 people who call us will receive free framed photographs of the Taj Mahal autographed by Shah Jahan.
On George Orwell’s 1984: Are your employees grumbling behind your back? Could they be planning a strike? Are they considering leaving the firm? With our range of discreet Room 101 spy-cams, you’ll be the first to find out. Conceal them at workstations, near water-coolers, in rest-rooms, and soon, you’ll know just whom to promote and whom to push. Doublespeak was never this easy to keep tabs on.
On V.S. Naipaul’s A House for Mr Biswas: It’s time you moved into a place of your own, and you know it. Presenting Tulsi Properties, the answer to nagging parents and overbearing in-laws. A range of spacious apartments with access to a gym, a pool and a clubhouse. Each one is miles away from the city and thus, completely affordable. This distance also means you’ll meet your relatives rarely, if at all. Tulsi Properties. Thoughtfully thinking of everything you can think of.
On any novel from Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series: Stop depending on the kindness of strangers. Enroll yourself with BBB – Bella’s Blood Bank. From now on, should you ever need a blood transfusion, we’re here to speedily provide you with types A, B, AB, O as well as any other letter that takes your fancy. Bella’s Blood Bank. Because getting blood shouldn’t be a pain in the neck.
On James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake: “Riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay.” We don’t know what that means, and neither do your listeners. You see, you need to speak correctly to harness the incredible powers of persuasion that will leave them begging for more. It’s so simple: a three-week course in Daedalus English Classes will give you all the tools you need. Impress the boss! Amaze your colleagues! Win over the girls!
On Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles: Bothered by the unruly behaviour of your canine friend? That’s where the Baker Street Dog Training Academy steps in. Just a few weekends will turn your rowdy pet into an adorable creature ready to lick your hand at the drop of a deerstalker. Sessions include being able to differentiate between a favourite pair of slippers and a bone, and being able to tell whether the game is afoot or merely asleep.
On Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita: Hair loss, crow’s feet and loss of stamina are inevitable signs of aging. Until now! For the first time, acclaimed nutritionist Vivian Darkbloom offers the world a patented age-fighting tonic, guaranteed to make you attractive to the fairer – and younger – sex all over again. This birthday, don’t grow older, grow younger. Special introductory offer: a month’s supply at a never-before low, low price. Satisfaction guaranteed or your wrinkles back.