We need to talk about bad books
We need to talk about Kevin. We do. Because Kevin kept me entertained. I held him and I read him constantly and quickly. Two days. On the sofa, off the sofa, stirring pasta, on my way to the toilet, in bed, out of bed. I did Kevin everywhere. I adored Kevin and his mother. His sister, Celia, freaked me out slightly; that whole thing with the glass eye. I don’t like eyes. So, I enjoyed Kevin immensely, and became a fan. Shortly after becoming a fan, I headed to a bookshop to look for other books by my new favourite author. I found ‘Double Fault’.
I did not enjoy Double Fault. I shall be honest, I did not finish it. For all I know, there could have been more stuff in it that I am not aware of. Perhaps the tennis players stopped playing tennis and shot each other. Or shot at each other while playing tennis. Or birthed dysfunctional children, who, in turn, shot people dead and almost dead. Or screamed in each other’s faces about LOVE AND HATE AND DEATH AND DISASTER. Or, perhaps it was a bad book. I did not hang around to find out.
Alice Sebold. The Lovely Bones. Made me cry. So I read another by Sebold, but I didn’t feel the same this time. I felt let down and alone. Then I saw someone post on Facebook that they had read another different to my other, and that they hadn’t loved that one either. It made them sad because they didn’t enjoy it, but that is all. Solidarity. I suspect that this is the same for readers of most authors who have written a groundbreaking novel, whether it is a first or subsequent novel. It can’t last. The shock, excitement and utter glee felt when a book truly hits the mark, or a nerve, or both, can’t be recreated. They can’t all be groundbreaking. So you either parody the first, in which case the second is not groundbreaking, or you go back to writing normal stuff. Which isn’t groundbreaking either.
I am now a third of the way through ‘So Much for That’ by Lionel Shriver. I refuse to give up on her; she is, after all, my favourite author. The first few chapters left me cold, but I am carrying on. I read it in bed, but I don’t carry it to the toilet with me. There is no comparison to Kevin, and never will be. There is, after all, only one Kevin. And we all need to talk about him.
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