Hasn't reached me yet. I'm looking forward to reading it.
Got it (my copy of this week's TLS). Sounds like an interesting novel. I liked the bit about "The inflections of time".
Thanks, Flint. It is an accessible novel but an intelligent one too. Cleave has done a lot of research on athletic training and leukaemia in children. The personal aspects are also intriguing but the ability of Sweet Girl to keep forgiving Bad Girl was a little implausible.
I love Franzen, Flint.
Same happened with The Corrections. The chapter he published as a short story was brilliant, but in the novel there are a few salesman's tricks I didn't like.
But this is not a thread about Franzen (and I'd hate to argue with you if you really 'love' him), so I'd better stay on topic.
:-). Don't let fear of offence ever put you off a debate, Flint. I would never take umbrage at another person's view on a writer whose work I loved. If they resorted to unconstructive, shallow criticism like 'This is bad writing/crap' with no illustrations of why they thought this was so, I might opt out of the debate or feel irritated. But animated, intelligent debate is always enjoyable imo. Sometimes I play devil's advocate too - like taking a writer I idolised a couple of decades ago and expounding on their flaws as I perceive them. This is usually pure iconoclasm - if I adored a writer two decades ago, chances are I still think they're among the cream of the milk now. But debates are all relative. Recently I discussed why I went off Martin Amis circa The Information with a pal on fb, which led to a heated debate about what I see as his flaws. But this kind of debate masks the fact that I'm only doing it because I still rate Amis as among the top twenty writers in the English language, and I'm comparing him to his former self, when he was number one in my book. Similarly, I hope when you criticise Franzen, it's relative to his success: if you said you thought he actually couldn't write at all and should never have been published, then I'd not bother to debate. But if you argued that you thought his writing had flaws, I'd listen.
I like the fact that you occasionally go to town on a writer you are already sold on Leyla. It seems only human to me to accept, hopefully being human, that one has a skewed or very personal view of a writer, and then attempting to track down what it is in our own make-up which turns us on to them. Self-enlightening.
But as you say, if you're already sold on a writer, it's very unlikely to change anything, but may produce a new way into the work, especially when others begin to throw up their little concerns, such as when Liam said to me of Dostoyevsky, 'he's a very uneven writer when you read him in the original...'. It may not change a pov in any marked way, but it prompts a thought or two or three!
Now, that Franzen, I just don't like his choice of footwear . . .
That we like or dislike a book is usually a matter of personal appreciation. If I read a book and tell you that such and such characters don’t ring true to me, that’s something very personal, very ‘subjective’. You may not at all feel the same about those characters.
A novel that I find trite and opportunistic may be innovative and ‘moving’ in the eyes of another reader. Conversely, a novel that for me is daring and formally rich may be dismissed as messy and pretentious by someone else. A narrative style that I find facile and soapoperatic, may be praised as ‘agile’ and ‘fluid’ by another critic. Who am I to say that my taste is better than yours?
And it’s not just a question of a book being ‘good’ or ‘bad’. You can think a book is admirably conceived and written, and yet not enjoy it. Or you can enjoy a book in spite of its evident flaws. The reasons why a book appeals to us or not are again very personal and idiosyncratic.
Then everyone of us readers has their pet hates. Some people cannot stand interior monologues, some people cannot stand reverse-time narratives, some people cannot stand novels written in the present tense, etc.
I personally cannot stand a writer trying to cheat me as a reader. How can a writer try to cheat me? By trying to pass as real characters people who are obviously false (‘real’ has nothing to do with ‘realistic’). By selling me the same book over and over again under different guises (‘the same book’ has nothing to do with the topic, subject matter, etc – a writer can change settings, subject matter, job profile of characters... and still write the same book).
(Parenthesis: I also “went off Martin Amis circa The Information”, although I think it was Experience that did it for me).
Interesting debate, guys. Yes, one's responses to a book are very personal and subjective, and likely to be influenced by all sorts of things from taste to life experiences to personality.
Its a great thing.
thanks for this post.
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I've read a few novels by a writer recently, fairly popular stuff, where the first novel is very much repeated in the second, at least in terms of what's a stake, and it's a pursuit story, yes, it's a different story, but the basis is more or less the same, it niggles as the first novel is shining through, just goes to show how we perceive things at a much deeper level than mere words, setting off various bells and whistles inside our heads...
...WARNING lights even!