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Thread: Introductions

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    Introductions

    A novel's Introduction gives us some insight into the author's life or the circumstances surrounding the publication of the book. I enjoy reading about that sort of thing. I think it can help to really enhance my understanding and appreciation of a book and I like learning something new about my favourite authors.

    What I don't understand is why are the Introductions to so many novels filled with spoilers?

    If you're going to give away key aspects of the plot surely it would be a good idea to warn the reader beforehand or at least move the Introduction to the back pages of the book.

    I know that this should come as no surprise to me. I should resist the temptation to read the Introduction until after I've read the rest of the book. It just irritates me.

    The last Introduction I read welcomed new readers to the novel only to tell them a few sentences later that our main character was going to commit a double murder and then off himself in the final pages!

    I suppose you could argue that it's about enjoying the journey and that if you're really engaging with the characters and the story then you can almost predict what is going to happen. But I still don't understand why the publishers or the authors would allow the plot to be given away before the reader has even begun the novel.

    Does anyone know why they do this?

  2. #2
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    I suppose one answer is that Introductions are usually intended for people who have already read the book. Incidentally, which book are you referring to?

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    Beyond the world aliengirl's Avatar
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    You've made a good point. I usually keep the introduction for the last.
    I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. ~ William Blake

    Captivity is consciousness,
    So's liberty. ~ Emily Dickinson

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lykren View Post
    I suppose one answer is that Introductions are usually intended for people who have already read the book. Incidentally, which book are you referring to?
    -SPOILER-




    Hangover Square, Patrick Hamilton




    -SPOILER-


    Having read a little about the book before deciding to buy it I knew to expect a murder or two, but the suicide was a surprise to me.

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    Dance Magic Dance OrphanPip's Avatar
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    Introductions are typically meant to provide a starting place for understanding the work, so usually they are not meant to be read before you've read the novel.
    "If the national mental illness of the United States is megalomania, that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia."
    - Margaret Atwood

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    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    Yes, I would go with Pip. The word introduction does what it says on the tin: the text introduces you to what you are about to read. Otherwise it would be a foreword, I guess (hmm, don't know). If it were to be read aftewards, surely the editor would put it towards the end, right? I mean, call me silly, but here I am presuming that you should read a book as it is presented to you, not the other way around.

    Incedentally, the introduction to Trollope's Barchester Towers was expendable. Not only gave it away major plot lines (although Trollope made it clear that the meaning of a novel is not lost with the plot), but it was also pretty shallow and meaningless. I could have thought about those things myself. The writer of that introduction could have spent some more time on the context of it all (high church and low church and things instead of taking up American critics' remarks that Trollop's love scenes are shallow because characters seem to decide to get married in one afternoon, where in fact the plotline plays over several weeks...). Fortunately I read that introduction afterwards, having been warned on here about those so-called intros.

    Why do introducers actually confuse a quick analysis with outlining the major themes of a work?

    Livre de Poche seems to get it right in French (all of those I've read, at least). You get the intro which outlines how the novel came about and what it mainly concentrates on (with historic context and everything), then the novel, and then the notes and essays on certain themes (also referenced in the novel itself).
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'me ne se vide ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scne VII)

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    Registered User Delta40's Avatar
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    Good Point but I admit I very rarely read them till afterward and only to see if the analysis concurs with my own opinion.
    Before sunlight can shine through a window, the blinds must be raised - American Proverb

  8. #8
    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    That's probably te best idea, yes. I mean, otherwise our view is probably clouded, but nonetheless, it would be great if introducers were to provide an introduction, not an afternote or whatever.
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'me ne se vide ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scne VII)

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    I have just read the introduction to a new copy of Tess of the d'Urbervilles. It was pretty good, but it gave away most of the plot. At least that gives me licence to skip to the first chapter. My heart always sinks when I pick up a famous book to find there is a twenty page introduction before the story actually starts.
    Last edited by kev67; 05-02-2013 at 04:25 PM.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    I used to get upset about that as a teenager. Bl**dy French books, always contained a massive introduction. Until I figured out that no-one actually read them. Silly autistic me!
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'me ne se vide ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scne VII)

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    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    well let's look at it this way why introduce something if at the end of the book there is no conclusion to end the end if you like.
    I guess I would suggest an afterthought for the book when the writer has finished his or her story. It would make for a kind of a debriefing for the story from the author themselves.
    A brief conclusion by the writer himself of how he or she thought the book came together is an after thought that is much due I think. Not a bad idea I would suggest.
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    I guess introductions are catered towards a more academic audience. An audience for whom plot details don't matter very much because they're more concerned with other aspects of the work. It's not really a big deal though. Most of the editions I've read warn you that the introduction contains plot details. Wordsworth Classics definitely do. A lot of the Penguin Classics do and the Oxford World's Classics probably do too.

  13. #13
    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    The problem is that an introduction should not contain plot details, for the simple reason that most people want to keep an open mind. I don't much care about the plot (in fact I think if I know the plot, I don't get distracted by it), but I hate it when the introduction already warps your mind in a certain way.

    What an introduction should do is to introduce you to certain themes and maybe some historic context in the novel (if appropriate), but without telling you very much where they are. Framing the novel, so to speak. Some of the French ones for the classics also contain a history of how the novel came about; from idea to publication and then the publication history too. I think that last bit is a bit much, though.

    The afterword or whatever, can analyse the thing in detail (appealing to, as you say, more academic-minded readers) as a kind of debrief (great word ) and food for thought to merge with your own ideas about the work, which you have formed together with those raised by the introduction.
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'me ne se vide ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scne VII)

  14. #14
    Registered User kelby_lake's Avatar
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    I do agree with this to an extent in that most introductions are really rather light critical essays that would be better off at the end. But as someone said earlier, Introductions are really for academic audiences/students who are reading critically.

    An ideal introduction for me would give the historical context and where this novel fits into the author's ouevre. How was it written and how well was it received? They're particularly useful when they explain historical customs that the novel takes for granted that you understand- wife-selling in The Mayor of Casterbridge might be an example.

    What I really hate is when critical essays give you spoilers for other novels that you haven't read! In one essay I read of a novel where the main character dies, the title of the essay was something like "The Suicides of (my character) and X"! I would expect a critical essay/introduction to have some spoilers, particularly if the plot events are remarkable or unexpected, but I don't expect them to give spoilers for works I hadn't anticipated!

  15. #15
    I steer clear of introductions and refuse even to turn the book over to see the back blurbs of any book that I decide to read of which the plot is not already common knowledge. I don't think I avoided the intro to 'Metamorphosis' because ***SPOILER*** I already knew he was a bug. But, the other day, my daughter picked up a book I had just started and read the back cover. Curious to read what she read, I read. I got spoilered and it nearly ruined my day.

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