My Books Don’t Suck

When it comes to reviews, there’s one thing authors fear more than anything: They don’t want to hear that their book sucks. Or blows, as the case may be.

You can intellectualize my books if you want. You can rationalize this and analyze that and I’ll be OK with it. But sucking? No thanks. I really don’t want to be told my book sucks.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m reasonably certain that my books do not suck. (Or blow.) But, as I keep saying, reviewing books is a subjective art. It’s possible for a reviewer to be grumpy one day. (Pul-leeze no grumpy reviewers. I ask my mother-in-law to light candles to ward off grumpy reviewers. Not that I’m so believing in the whole lighting of candles mojo, but I figure better safe than sorry.) Or that some turn of phrase just hits the reviewer wrong. Or... well, the possibilities are endless. But sucking? That’s a whole other deal.

All of this was brought to mind by a couple of things. First, I have a new book coming out in about a minute and so reviews are coming out as well. I’ve just touched wood but, as of this writing, the reviews have all been really good. Certainly, no one has suggested the book sucks. And, second, I came across a review of Irvine Welsh’s new book that, while it doesn’t actually use the word “suck” just might as well have.

From the opening paragraph of The Sunday Times’ review of Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chef:

Irvine Welsh’s sixth novel is so awful that, to paraphrase James Wood, it invents its own category of awfulness.

Yikes! One could almost get the idea that the Times’ Neel Mukherjee didn’t like the book. But wait: there’s more:

This is a demeaning book that cants the reader’s soul downwards, making it feel complicit with the writer’s dishonest short-changing of his readership, telling them that this lazy, dishonest, appallingly written rubbish is the real thing while laughing all the way to the bank as a result of our gullibility.

That bit is from quite near the end, but it gets even worse.

Though Welsh’s work has never been for the faint of heart, as far as I know, it’s never before invited quite the vitriol of Mukherjee’s review, though I’ve not yet read this latest.

In retrospect, the review we ran in January Magazine for 2001’s Glue seems like it might have been a little too optimistic. Lincoln Cho wrote that he’d “wager that the best book is yet to come. Glue just seems like more of the same.”

Lincoln, it seems as though you were wrong. If Mukherjee is correct, it really doesn’t get much worse than this one.

I can hardly wait to crack it.

Tip of the hat to J. Kingston Pierce.


Sandra Ruttan said…
Reviews are subjective.

Unless, of course, you call a book non-fiction and it's full of lies. Then calling the author a liar is quite valid. But what idiotic author would think they could pull something like that off in this day and age?

I read a review of a book today that was absolutely scathing...
C'mon: more scathing than the review of Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs that I quoted?

"Irvine Welsh’s sixth novel is so awful that, to paraphrase James Wood, it invents its own category of awfulness."

Zoiks! It don't get much more scathing than that. Except for, maybe, the last line of that review. Did you peek at it? Double zoiks!
Sandra Ruttan said…
You know what? I typically don't read reviews. Because they are subjective. And a review that starts out so horrid, it just reads like a personal attack. I'm fine if people say a book doesn't work and they explain why but ouch!

I think the reason this other unnamed review bugged me was that it started off reasonable enough and then leveled an insult at the author. I know the author, so I was a bit offended. See, another reason not to read reviews...
I dunno, Sandra. May just be my contrary nature, but it actually seems to me to be a reason to read reviews, though with a salt cellar at your elbow.

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