There Is No Statute of Limitations on Spoilers

Annika Barranti Klein

Contributing Editor

Annika Barranti Klein likes books, obviously.   Twitter: @noirbettie

How many books have been published, like, ever? No, wait, that’s too big a number. How many books are in print right now? Still too many. How many books do you have on your TBR? Ridiculous, sorry. Let’s go with how many books do you own that you have not yet read (print editions only)? My answer would surely be in the hundreds at least.

Perhaps a different question.

How many books do you read in an average week? (Liberty Hardy need not respond.) I am lucky if I finish one, despite being a speedy reader. In a month? A year? How many of them are new, and how many are backlist?

What I’m trying to say here is that you just can’t read everything, or at least you just cannot have already read everything.

Why is it okay to be spoiled for a book that came out five years ago (or fifty or five hundred) but not for one that came out five days ago, perhaps five weeks ago, or maybe–if we are generous–five months ago? Why is it okay to spoil a classic but not a current best seller? Who decides what books are classics?

Okay. So what is a spoiler? Loosely defined, it is information about a book that “spoils” the plot for the reader. Is it possible to actually SPOIL a book? Well, no. What you are spoiling is the experience of finding out what happens by reading it. And that is, to some readers, a precious thing. So why do we only allow people who read a book the moment it is released to have that experience?

Friends, there is no statute of limitation on spoilers. To be sure, some classics are so deeply entrenched in our culture that there are no longer spoilers in the same way that newer works can be spoiled. (To borrow an example from a different medium, does anyone not know who or what Rosebud is?) But that doesn’t mean it’s fair game to tell someone what happens in a book they haven’t read, no matter how long ago that book came out. The first time you read a book, it is a new book to you. That’s all that should matter.

Some people prefer to know what’s coming. They want to be spoiled. That’s fine! I would never insist that they remain spoiler-free, so why do they so often insist on spoiling others? Not spoiling a book (or movie or television series or any other media) is so incredibly easy that it’s ridiculous to have to say this, but: DO. NOT. SPOIL. SOMEONE. UNLESS. THEY. ASK. YOU. TO.

Please and thank you.