A stream of digressions #1: mainly On Monsters and Other Humans

It has been a strange week. Some days were incredibly fast and filling, other days felt like time could not have possibly moved slower.

Today is one of those slow days.

I look at the clock and it’s almost 8pm, yet I could have sworn I just came back from my morning walk on the hills.

On these days I revert to my hibernation mode, I lock everyone out and am left one on one with myself, my thoughts and the to-do list. This may surprise many who know me personally but there are genuinely days when I don’t want to have a conversation or even physically contact other humans and that’s OK. It’s completely normal and something that I call (thanks to a suggestion from a kind friend) – ” battery low 1% remaining” i.e when your social, physical or emotional reserves are depleted. Take a rest, have a day off, go for a walk if you can handle it, snuggle with a cup of tea – take care of yourself.

I have quite a lot going on these days and it was silly of me to think that vlogging would take up less of my time than blogging, so I would like to let everyone whom I’ve promised or told of my channel to know that things are being put together, it’s just taking a lot more time and resources than I thought it would.

I’ve planned out my introduction video, tested my camera, am generally prepared for my first video book review and have penned down the first essay in my 3-part series titled “Scandalous”. What’s left to do? RECORDING AND EDITING IT ALL. Please bear with me as I plough through my course-work, personal business, work, life and, of course, extra curricular reading.

The vlog is going to happen eventually.

I’m only half-way through but I can already feel the surge of thoughts I’d like to tell overwhelm me, making my mind ‘quit unexpectedly’ like a Chrome window with too many tabs open.




Emerald Fennell’s “Monsters” caught my eye during a scouting mission to Princess Street’s Waterstones. The aim of the mission was to assess current bestsellers, the shop layout and bookshelf politics. I rarely venture into the YA section, if only to grope Garth Nix’s novels, curse the internet and lament how I should have spent more wisely the little free time I had during school-years.

A tentative glance around the YA shelves leaves me barely warm, my inner snob is huffing and puffing and my inner voice-over is wondering why exactly are teenagers (I used to be one too!) attracted to some of these books.*

“Monsters” made me pick it up twice. I am a hardy combination of a book addict (an impulse buyer when I’m having a bad day) and student with a small allowance. A book has got to be real special for me to want to buy it at Waterstones. I circled the general fiction floor a dozen times (half of them in search of my mother whom I found clutching at a ‘I<3 Darcy’ tote and refusing to leave the shop without it) – during those tours I kept coming back to the YA corner.

Although ‘one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover’ – today this saying is more apt for people than books. Books have long become products; and product presentation is key to success. Many an established publisher have published Nobel Prize winners, classics and cultural milestones alongside what most of the reading world has unanimosly labelled a crime against the written word, books, the noble calling of a writer etc. This, unfortunately, is how the capitalist pie rolls. To use a gardening metaphor: crops grow best on natural manure, especially strawberries. In a world where content growth is exponential consumers are fickle and abstinent with their finances. A publisher must do everything possible to promote and establish their product among thousands of others.

Sorry folk.

This particular book, in my opinion, is like the seashore it depicts on the cover. Its appearance, far from neutral, leaves enough room for both childish nonchalance and adult gra(depra)vity that so many grown-ups refuse to attribute to children. All monsters were once men and children. One simply needs to mention Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” or King’s “Children of the Corn” to get some heads nodding. I believe it’s all part of a  new cross-over trend that Penguin started with John Green’s “The Fault in our Stars”.

I am a tactile person and I like to savour books. With my hands: feeling the texture of the cover, the corners (I once encountered (and purchased) a book where the corners were rounded off – pure bookish ecstasy), the thickness and the quality of the paper and the threading of the spine. With my eyes: taking in the cover, the text layout, type, spacing, guttering and the little illustrated sections (or chapter) markers.

I don’t like my food pre-packaged just like I don’t like my books catered to ‘a particular audience’. There is a certain quality I will expect from them all, of course, but none of that flamboyant gimmick that often takes over YA.

Anyhow –

 Fast-forward this Thursday: I decided to explore the inside of the “Edinburgh Bookshop” – having walked past it almost every single day for at least a month now – and guess what? “Monsters” was waiting for me there! I found a slip inside the book with a note scribbled on with a bic pen: be  warned this book is definitely for those young readers 16+ and above (approx. citation).

I guess that’s enough writing about a book I haven’t read yet! It’s time to go purchase a copy and see what it’s really like inside – ’cause in the end that’s what matters most.

* adults are children who’ve grown tall, grey and cautious. 🙂

 ** I am not about to wander into a polemic rant on gender politics in the sales campaigns of YA fiction and it’s overbearing, guru like manner of asserting the idea that at this particular age all girls want some glitter, feelings, slice-of-life and romance no matter how unpalatable and all boys will prefer adventures, thrillers, inventions and scares – to which I say ‘NAY! However, this is a digression for another time.


Author: Nathaniel

Founder and director of Knight Errant Press. Flying solo. An MSc Publishing graduate of Edinburgh Napier University. Freelance translator, occasional writer, editor and digital marketer. Based in Scotland.

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