Sunday, April 03, 2005

Ouch! When the NYTBR slams your book...

... it must really hurt, particularly if the review is not mean spirited -- that just makes the criticism more incisive, in my opinion. Some examples from today's New York Times Book Review:

A review of A.L. Kennedy's novel Paradise, written by Neil Gordon:

...Kennedy's novels have a baffling way of engaging her readers and then squandering our involvement. It's not that she gives us wooden characters or poor writing or foolish plots. Rather, her books are so adroitly written and carefully conceived, so technically accomplished, that it comes as a surprise to reach the end and find them so unnecessary.
Now, I don't know about you, but that seems the worst possible indictment of a writer -- loads of talent squandered creating meaningless work. It's even more painful than being called a hack.

From Walter Kirn's review of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by wunderkind Jonathan Safran Foer -- on the child narrator: "...there are neurological limits to some readers' ability to tolerate a wee one who says whatever springs to mind and keeps circling to the clue of cluelessness and other riddling Oriental insights." And on the novel as a whole:
This accords to what appears to be the novel's quite difficult grand ambition: to take on the most explosive subject available while showing no passion, giving no offense, adopting no point of view and venturing no sentiment more hazardous than the history is sad and brutal and wouldn't it be nicer if it weren't.

Ouch. But I guess Foer's strategy of soliciting sales via e-mail must have worked -- he made it into the New York Times Hardcover Bestseller List this week (just squeezing in at #15 this week, though up to #13 for next week).

By the way, I haven't read any Jonathan Safran Foen yet -- I have Everything is lluminated but haven't gotten around to reading it. I wonder if I ever will.

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