Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Tale for the Time Being - Part II

I've written a review of Ruth Ozeki's novel, A Tale for the Time Being, a book I think is wonderful. I was therefore interested in the 1-star review/comments in Amazon. At this writing, there are 15 (compared to 273 5-star reviews), and I'm not sure what they say about the book, about the readers who felt impelled to write, or about the reading public. Here is a sample:

"I really disliked this book! Interesting premise but boring dialogue, and too much technical information."

"Extremely hard book to read and understand what was going on. Could not even finish it. Could have been summarized in 2 pages with life principles it was raising." (If this reader did not understand what was going on, how would s/he know it could be summarized in two pages?)

"I did not get very far in this book - I abandoned it as it was silly drivel. The author invites you to read no further at the end of each of the first few chapters! This person needs to be listened to. Finally I did and quit reading." (Actually, it's not the author who invites you to read no further, but a character who is writing a journal.)

"This is one of the most depressing, dull books I have ever read. Maybe it is just too deep for me but it had no point. If my book club hadn't chosen it I would have put it down about a third through it." (Does the book have no point? Or did this reader not understand the point? This seems to be a common position: The fault is in the book—not in my ability to understand the book.)

"Too depressing, and not something someone should read especially in the sixth grade!!! I felt depressed by the main characters sense of not being cool. There was so much cussing and a lot of suicidal thoughts!!...Both of my parents agreed with me that it is not good to have those thoughts in your mind, and also, the huge use of profanity!!...I can not even try to number the words of dirty language. This book is inappropriate for kids under the age of 18!!" (I am sure Ms. Ozeki would agree that her book is inappropriate for a sixth grader. I wonder how this child happened to be exposed to it at all.)

"Story a devise [device?] to prove the writers point, which i found too obvious to want to figure out. Great reviews by those who were charmed by the devise." (If the device is obvious, what does the reader have to figure out? If you have to figure it out, is it obvious?)

"We chose this book as a book club read and unanimously hated it. It was hard to get into and the story got lost in the physics and philosophy. At times it was just bizarre and disconnected. The previous reviews I had read sounded so good, I thought it was just me but when absolutely everyone in our book club disliked so much I felt vindicated. Waste of money and time. Anyone who wants to give it a try should go to the library!" (Interesting that the entire group hated the book. How, I wonder, does the group choose books? In my experience, it's best if the person who recommends the book has read it and could then, perhaps, defend her view.)

I suspect that what these comments really say is what the Romans said, "De gustibus non est disputandum," tastes are not to be argued.

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