Do your friends trust your judgment in books? I am often asked what I have enjoyed reading lately. The problem is, I haven’t been enjoying many prize-winning books. I feel sad saying what no one wants to hear: “I’m reading **** but I don’t think it’s very good.”
A couple examples: Little Fires Everywhere shot to the top of the New York Times Best Sellers list for Fiction and was named Amazon’s Best Novel of 2017. The Sympathizer, which I am currently plodding through, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Surely it is sufficient to trust the judgement of the boards and readers who award these prizes.
When I attended the first meeting of a newly formed book group, I alienated the other four attendees by saying that Little Fires’ characters were stereotypes, there more to serve the plot than to be believable. No one showed any trust in my judgement and eventually I decided it might be best to find a less-easily-offended group. To my surprise, when later I looked up reviews for Little Fires, I found that The Guardian’s review included:
“The plot hinges on a series of coincidences that
don’t stand up to scrutiny:they are too neat and too many…
it’s too clever, too complete, to be entirely plausible.”
While the rest of the review was positive, at least part of my evaluation wasn’t off.
Of The Sympathizer, the Washington Post reviewer has virtually nothing negative to say about it. Though I avoid reading reviews prior to reading a book, maybe I should have with this one. Because I feel guilty (a subject for a different blog) reading fiction during the day, I save it for bedtime, not the best hour to decipher sentences like this one:
“Killing the extras was either a reenactment of what
had happened to us natives or a dress rehearsal for
the next such episode, with the Movie the local
anesthetic applied to the American mind, preparing it
for any minor irritation before or after such a deed.”
I can barely get through that sentence in the morning after two cups of coffee.
Maybe if I overcome the guilt problem, I will be able to recommend some novels in the future. Up next: My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley. I trust I will enjoy it.
Photo courtesy of Kyle Glenn via Unsplash.com