Adventures in Book Reviewing

Is it just me, or does it make little to no sense to have people who openly admit their hatred for an author review said author’s work?

The early reviews of Pynchon’s Inherent Vice have been, at least in the various New York press, similarly negative.  What’s interesting is that they have tended to be equally dismissive of Against the Day. (Kakutani went so far as to describe Against the Day as “pretentious,” but I cannot for the life of me figure out what it is feigning to be other than, well, a Pynchon novel.)  Curiously, I don’t recall this being articulated so clearly and loudly in its reviews.  (Most just said it was, in varying degrees, unreadable — code for, I think, “I didn’t read it all, but wanted the money for writing this review.”   Another code for this same sentiment is: “This is a flawed masterpiece.”)  It is, as Adam said I were discussing just now, as though reviewers are using this shorter novel to more fully express their disdain for being expected to read Pynchon’s more typical (i.e., longer) stuff.   In short, they conclude: “We hate Pynchon when he’s being ambitious, and then we hate him even more when he writes a shorter book that’s more fun.”

15 thoughts on “Adventures in Book Reviewing

  1. This is as good a place to ask as any, I suppose: where do I start with Pynchon. I’m not afraid of long and/or difficult books. I just want to read the best one first.

  2. Maybe I am a non-Pynchon type (whatever that means) but I loved Crying of Lot 49 and had no impulse to continue reading beyond the first few pages of Gravity’s Rainbow or Vineland.

  3. The Crying of Lot 49 is definitely a great book. Thematically, it is all Pynchon. I love it. But, it is not really representative of his writing as a whole. I know countless people who feel the same as you, Hugh. I have no problem with people not liking Pynchon. A newspaper or magazine choosing reviewers who clearly dislike Pynchon’s work, however, seems kind of silly to me. Makes for a nice, zingy review — but not particularly helpful.

  4. I love it! There must be a place for the little boy to shout: The emperor has no clothes on! In all art. film, music, novels, dance. If the critic is an idiot, let no one listen. (I once critiqued T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets
    as an undergrad and my professor said: ‘You have chutzpah.’ and I thought he thought I was a brilliant critic! ;))

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