The Page 33 theory
I read somewhere that before one buys or borrows a book, you should read its page 33. It is supposed to reflect the overall tenor of the book and its readability. In any case, this is probably more revealing than reading the back flap reviews and the write-ups provided inside the glossy flaps. Of course, paperbacks do not have a flap, but they do have a page 33.
Ever since I read this theory, I have looked at all pages 33 of books. In most cases, page 33 is pretty sub-standard and does not encourage you to read on – much less, buy the book. It is arguably better to make up one’s own mind rather than relying on back page reviews. Like a stray tune, stuck in your head, refusing to go away, this page 33 theory pops up every time I touch a new book.
I managed to get a page 33 of a well-known book – “The Great Gatsby”. Like many modern readers, I saw the movie first and then read the book. (trivia for the fans – Amitabh Bachchan plays a small role in it). Here is the page 33 of the book. Would you buy “The Great Gatsby” based on this page 33?
The Great Gatsby I followed him over a low whitewashed railroad fence, and we walked back a hundred yards along the road under Doctor Eckleburg‟s persistent stare. The only building in sight was a small block of yellow brick sitting on the edge of the waste land, a sort of compact Main Street ministering to it, and contiguous to absolutely nothing. One of the three shops it contained was for rent and another was an all-night restaurant, approached by a trail of ashes; the third was a garage — Repairs. GEORGE B. WILSON. Cars bought and sold.— and I followed Tom inside. The interior was unprosperous and bare; the only car visible was the dust-covered wreck of a Ford which crouched in a dim corner. It had occurred to me that this shadow of a garage must be a blind, and that sumptuous and romantic apartments were concealed overhead, when the proprietor himself appeared in the door of an office, wiping his hands on a piece of waste. He was a blond, spiritless man, anaemic, and faintly handsome. When he saw us a damp gleam of hope sprang into his light blue eyes. “Hello, Wilson, old man,” said Tom, slapping him jovially on the shoulder. “How‟s business?” “I can‟t complain,” answered Wilson unconvincingly. “When are you going to sell me that car?”