Saturday, January 02, 2016

In Praise Of Letting Novels Collect A Little Dust

No novel read before its time.
A friend of mine, after hearing me enthuse over Denis Johnson's Tree Of Smoke, admitted to having the opposite reaction when he tried to read the book. He had picked it up back in the day, and thought part of the problem had been Michiko Kakutani's enthusiastic review for NYTBR -- reading the book Kakutani raved about proved to be, "Not quite all that, and a bag of chips."

Kakutani's review, at this point, hardly strikes me as a rave, but I think I understand where my friend is coming from. Tree Of Smoke was rolled out with great fanfare (much to B.R. Meyer's amusement and contempt) and had I bought and read it at the time I likely would have been underwhelmed, at the very least. Instead, I picked up a remaindered copy and let it collect dust for a few years before cracking it open and giving it a go.

This is a strategy that's worked well for me. Rick Moody's The Diviners was another such purchase. In '05 it was a Big Deal In Publishing, but I read it at least five years later, when reviewers and trend-seekers had moved on to celebrate other work (Super Sad True Love Story and A Visit From The Goon Squad, if memory serves). I enjoyed The Diviners, but I'd be careful with my recommendation -- to be honest, most days Moody's fun-with-words approach to novel writing leaves me cold. But I happened to pull this from my shelf on a day when that was exactly what I had a hankering for, and I wound up loving the book.

My attention to pro book reviewers is increasingly on the wane -- but this is a list of books enjoyed I can get behind, because it has some of that "I only just discovered this popular flavour" characteristic I can (obviously) relate to.

Donna Tartt's The Secret History (1992) is a good read -- who knew?

Personal note-to-self: Joshua Cohen's Book Of Numbers, once remaindered, is likely to find a spot on my bookshelf.

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