Sunday, July 13, 2008

If This Were A Different Kind of Book. . .

OK, so I wrote before about how I don't like to read reviews of novels I'm actually going to read, about how in my view the only thing to say about a book you think is great is: it's good, go read it.

So I read a book last week that was like the most amazing book EVER, and so I'm here to tell you to read it. It's called Atmospheric Disturbances.

Nominally it is the story of a man, a psychiatrist, who is convinced his wife has been replaced by someone who is not her: a simulacrum. I could go on an on about how great this book, and how multidimensional its greatness is, but I want everybody to be able to encounter the book without any distracting thoughts about what someone else said about the book.

I didn't have that opportunity myself. I was reading The New Yorker on the bus, and there was a review of this book, and I read the first paragraph, and I felt myself being drawn in, and there I was, reading, and thinking to myself, "Ack! Don't read! You want to read this book! Don't read the review! Noko Marie, put the magazine down!!"

Because I was bored and tired I didn't have the power to resist, and I read the whole review, and let's just say, understatedly, that it did "affect my reading experience in a negative way."

Having read the book I felt it was safe to read today's review in The New York Times, and of course I was annoyed by it -- of course, because, if you love a book, how can you want to read what someone else -- a stranger no less!! -- thought to say about it in a newspaper? You're setting yourself up for doom.

I won't be revealing anything if I say that part of what annoyed me about the Times review was that twice the reviewer said something like, "If this were a different kind of book . . ." Meaning, a book with the same basic plot but told in a completely different way.

Why would you even ask such a hypothetical question in a book review? Um, it's the book it is; it's not an entirely different kind of book.

I also won't be revealing anything if I quote this brief passage from the book, one that I thought was wonderful:

"Indecisiveness, capriciousness -- these qualities in Rema never irritated me. I've always thought of my own mind as an unruly parliament, with a feeble leader, with crazy extremist factions, and so I don't look down on others for being the same."

Maybe like sea shells, these sentences don't seem so great when they're separated from their fellows. I don't know; I can't separate them out in my mind.

So don't judge for yourself, just trust me. Read the book.

Oh yeah, and don't judge the book by its cover either, 'cause you won't make any correct inferences. I didn't, anyway.

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