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More Pondering: October 4, 2008

October 4, 2008

I did some more thinking about what makes a book work (or fail to work) for me, and I figured out two aspects that are so important to me, they act as gatekeepers for me.

One is prose quality. If, to me, the prose clanks, that’s it. I can’t read the book. Nothing else about the book will be enough to overcome that clanky prose. On the other hand, prose that delights me will overcome a multitude of sins.

The one thing lovely prose can’t overcome, however, is the second gatekeeper, which is how much the author’s worldview aligns with mine, in the sense that we both think the world works in a given way, that people act in a certain way. It doesn’t have to be complete alignment. It just can’t be completely different. Otherwise, I spend the whole time annoyed with everything because I believe the author is starting from a false premise.

I haven’t figured out the more negotiable elements, but I’m chipping away at it.


I’m also still chipping away at Carol Goodman’s The Night Villa. I don’t love it — I’m trying in the back of my mind to figure out why — but I am enjoying it. As of this moment, when I’m 2/3 of the way through, I’d say it has all of the elements necessary to make it a good read for me, none of the elements that generally push me away; so far, it hasn’t shown any of things that take a book from “I enjoyed it very much” to “I just loved it.”

(Both assessments are purely subjective and all about my reactions to them — a book I enjoyed very much isn’t necessarily a lesser book than one I just loved — I just didn’t respond as strongly and/or as positively, that’s all. I think that’s true, to some degree, of all reviews, even if the reviewer says it’s the book itself, not her reaction to it, that drives the review.)

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