“Little Women” Meets “The Virgin Suicides”

No one can like every book.  “It’s Little Women meets The Virgin Suicides,” I said.

Mind you, I liked this well-written new book up to a point.  I clutched it to my chest. I told everyone how much I loved it. 

Then there came a point when I felt the need to trash it.  The last quarter of the book was not only horrifying–I could have dealt with that, though it was tragic and abhorrent –but portrayed women in such a passive light that I wanted to scream–and wondered why they didn’t scream. 

This just keeps happening with books.

It is a dilemma.  I love to share my enjoyment of books.  For instance, I adored Anne Enright’s new novel, Actress.  (And it is longlisted for The Women’s Prize.)

But if I don’t like a book by a living author (and I prefer books by the dead), I receive a subliminal warning:  “Shut up!  Be nice!” 

Everybody’s a control freak now.  Everybody’s apologizing constantly–for what I don’t know.  

It’s a little scary not to be nice every minute.  “Be kind, rewind,” I think cynically.

In recent years, I’ve read many articles about a new trend toward kindness in book reviews.  These essayists claim reviewers are more sympathetic and positive than they used to be.  No more attacks with verbal knives. And that’s not altogether a bad thing, they say. 

Still, I have bought a lot of bad books as a result of hyperbolically enthusiastic reviews.  I like to check the consumer reviews as well.

Coincidentally, professional critics still attack consumer reviews. I thought that had ended.  But in an essay at Literary Hub, “Everyone Can Be a Book Reviewer. Should They Be?”, Phillipa Chong surveyed “professional” critics.  She writes, 

Critics were understandably ambivalent towards amateur reviewers despite their appreciation for general readers’ enthusiasm about books. In the words of one anonymous critic, “I think it’s wonderful if people read and come up with their own opinions. I think it’s a marvelous thing. There’s nothing that says any particular group of people have a monopoly.” Yet, this same critic is skeptical about amateur reviewers’ qualifications to write a well-balanced book review: “I do sometimes think that bloggers are kind of dumb, as a general rule.”

“Dumb”?  I love the oxymoron:  mute bloggers!

Oh, well.  De gustibus non est disputandum.