Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Fine Art of Talking About Someone Else's Fine Art

I rarely speak in an overt manner about books in this blog. I'll obliquely allude to them here or there to give my writing some minor justification of being "informed" or lend it an air of legitimacy. But overall, I shy from directly talking about or critiquing books because who am I to say whether or not a book is good? Also, I'm not very adept at reviewing books.

To prove both of these points, I'll share with you a review I was going to write for the book "Eeeee Eee Eeee" by Tao Lin: Garbage.

Yes, that was the review in its entirety. As you can tell, it was a little short for a full blog post and not all that contextual. Plus, to be fair, I haven't finished the book yet so I'll retract that "garbage" and replace it with a "garbage?" The characters and writing style have angered me enough that I want to write the book off. But it has also angered me to a point that I feel I must keep reading to see if this resolves itself and becomes something more than yet another novel of young, depressed, alienated, navel-gazing, self-obsessed, practically incoherent, emotionally shut off losers speaking and thinking only in broken sentences often lacking pronouns (if I wanted Wes Anderson in book form, I'd read Miranda July). And I need to know why there are talking animals. And why the title is written in Dolphin.

A true book review should be an engaging work in and of itself. It's not the book report you gave in front of your 4th grade class. The one in which you practiced in front of a mirror for three days and then totally choked when presenting because you got all tangled up in your half-memorized memorization of said report. The one that sucked. The one that got you a "F". The one you cried about. No, it is definitely not that. That, as your teacher chided you, was a synopsis, not a review. It was also plagiarism seeing as it was the synopsis on the back cover.

Book reviews should impart information not only about a book's plot, but about the author's use of language, character and setting , how the book fits in relation to their other work, what it says about the culture it exists in... You know, high minded, hoity-toity stuff like that. It should not just be an angry complaint or cheerleading.

Luckily, I'm not bound by those rules. I'm going with my gut on this one.

posted by jw