Thursday, November 29, 2007

Books are a load of crap

Russell Smith in The Globe (behind the pay wall):
I am so thrilled to have discovered Pierre Bayard's How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read: It gives an argument to support what one has intuitively felt all one's life and, more importantly, it gives one an excuse to judge, and judge quite harshly, all those ecstatically lauded, good-for-you Canadian books - on the Giller Prize short list, for instance - that you can't bear to even begin.
As one witty and perceptive reviewer put it: "If it's sincerely meant, Bayard's book is, at best, a helpful guide for pseuds-in-training."

Actually, Russell gets a free pass here – I, too, am very familiar with the experience of watching any given year's barge full of "important new books" slowly run aground and trying to decide which I'd rather do: rub finely ground glass into my eyes, or actually read one of them.

In reality, I do end up reading a good chunk of just about all of them, and while outright duds are always in abundance, the more frustrating books are those that shimmer with talent, but do everything they can to smother that glow with Big Themes, 18 months' worth of research, a world view borrowed from afternoon CBC Radio, and writing that is both overcooked and under-edited.

Having said that, I still think Bayard's book is a joke that fizzles.

(And I think it's very pseud-y of Russell to switch from "I" to "one" to "you.")

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