Tuesday, August 17, 2010


I hate filler. I hate it in books, cartoons, films, food...you name it. Filler sucks.

I particularly hate it in books. The other day I was in a used book store and I was infinitely saddened to  see how many books were overwritten, or were stretched out versions of what should have been  long magazine articles.  You can blame publishing's woes on computers and TV,  but that's not the whole story.  The truth is that the reading public is also re-acting negatively to the glut of wordy, needlessly long and expensive books which have come out since the late forties.

Why all the filler, and why did it appear in that time period? I don't know. I only know that books (excepting biographies) were tighter before WWII.

You see the filler problem everywhere. It's in art books which are full of super wide margins and wasted white space. It's in histories which hardly ever address themselves to what readers want to know. I don't want a book with a sappy title like "Brother Against Brother: The Civil War." I want a book called "Why the South Lost the Civil War," or "Why Sherman was an Ineffective General." 

 Maybe publishers are too focused on coming up with the one expensive big seller that will appeal to everybody and make lots of money. Maybe they'd do better if they issued a larger number of books at a much cheaper price, with more specific titles.

BTW: The filler book store I visited wasn't "The Iliad" in North Hollywood, which is pictured above. The Iliad has as much disdain for filler as I do.  


Severin said...

There is too much important information in the world for a person to waste time with filler. If time must be wasted it should be wasted on good, quality entertainment.

Anonymous said...

Very well said, Eddie. You stole the words out of my own mouth when it comes to filler. I mean, what's the point of putting that stuff in our entertainment if it adds nothing of interest to it? It's just like with many of the classic Marx Bros. comedies. Harpo, Chico, and Groucho are obviously the true stars in those films and adept entertainers, yet whoever wrote the scripts for those decided to waste about a fourth of the whole film focusing on Zeppo, a lousy, boring, pseudo romantic character just added to clear up time basically. What's that cheesy, "dramatic," romantic stuff doing in a comedy picture anyway? Thank God The Three Stooges rarely delved into having stupid filler in their shorts, and even when there was romance, it would be made fun of in their style, and also made of the classic WB shorts wasted no time with that stuff either.

Now that I think about it, your post made me realize that filler is now everywhere in American culture now, and not just in our entertainment either. Laptops, when you first open them out of the box, come with a bunch of crap you'll never need, yet it's just there to fill up the box and to jack up the prices. Cafeteria food is filled with nasty, unhealthy filler in itself that does nothing to fill you up. I'm surprised no one at my school has died from eating it. Aaargh. The list goes on and on, but I assume that you saw my point here.

RooniMan said...

I feel ya. I hate filler to the core.

talkingtj said...

i worked at barnes and noble and i worked at the strand here in new york. the strand is independent, barnes and noble corporate. in both cases the culture of books is somewhat snobby and long winded. countless times i pick up a book, get the gist of it by the end of the first chapter-sometimes the synopsis on the back, and im done!harry potter shouldve been one book! lord of the rings was written as one book.publishers are so greedy that they publish anything!so many books are in the back room that never make it to the floor. they create a glut-they well tell a young writer-you have a great story here but i dont see room for a sequel! we need a series! sometimes you read a book, get to the end and realize, that was pointless!the public doesnt have the time or inclination! thats why no one buys books, not the internet or anything else, its the publishers!

Jorge said...

This is a huge problem in film. Modern movies are far too long. The standard 3 act structure says that a film plot shouldn't kick in until 1/4 into it, and then that it should wrap up 15 minutes before the film does. That's 45 minutes that have nothing to do with the film, just intro and outro.

If it were up to me, movies would be done more like old films, like "Love Crazy" or "The Lady Eve." The movie starts when the plot starts, and end as soon as the plot ends. Mamet talks about this in his book. And give me a 90 minute film. Give me the most important parts. Don't give me a 2.5 hour romantic comedy.

Mr. Trombley said...

Dear Sir,

What follows is a crass advertisement, but it is so relevant to your interests (or older books, at least) that I felt that I felt might make a sales pitch for a company granted that I am not involved in with it except as a customer.

Dover Publications is a company that prints work that the original publishers have allowed to go out-of-print and public domain material. I became aware of them because of their extensive collection of Mathematics texts, but they have a large archive of work from affordable sheet music to paper dolls!

All the books I've bought so far have been well printed. I've also seen library copies of their books that have lasted over 30 years without significant degradation.


I thought to bring this up because you noted you preferred books written before WWII and they have such things.

Adam Gunn said...

Someone should write a manifesto about filler. Does everyone know what filler is though?