Friday, August 2, 2013

A Guide for the Perplexed

I'm so lucky that I can get my hands on the brand-spanking-new books of my favorite authors. It's a bookseller perk. And it's a great one. It's so great that if and when I become a lawyer, it will be hard to leave behind. We booksellers do what we do because we love it. Unbelievable as it may be, we don't make the big bucks. You can thank these assholes and a general dismissive, disdain towards retail for that. Bookselling is not your average retail career. I know a lot of lifelong booksellers; people who are smarter than me, and smarter than you. These people sell books because it means something to them; because reading, and getting that perfect book into someone's hands is important to them. It truly is an art. Public service announcement over...

So, back to the topic at hand. As a bookseller, I get to read new stuff before you do (this totally makes me feel super cool). But, I have a hard time reading advance copies from authors I've never read before. So, I love, Love, LOVE when an advance copy surfaces from one of my favorites. It's like Christmas. Truly. And this year has been a banner year for me. Lots of authors I love are emerging from wherever it is they go, and finally putting out new stuff. It's fantastic.

But, it seems that I don't really like my favorites anymore (let's not talk about Michael Chabon). Case in point: I got an advance of Night Film from Marisha Pessl who wrote Special Topics in Calamity Physics, a book I LOVED. Her only book, in fact, which was published way back in...I don't know when, the early 2000's. And so, the fact that she is finally publishing something new is huge. And I got to read it.


I didn't like it. Disappointing, sure. But, they can't always hit it out of the park. Not to be thwarted, when I learned that Dara Horn is finally releasing something new, I was over the moon. The World to Come is one of my all time favorites. In the Image is also fantastic. But, then I read the new one.

I don't really have much to say about it. I finished it a few weeks ago, and nothing really stuck with me. It's about sisters and sibling rivalry, a computer program, a hostage situation, asthmatics (really), unfaithful partners, and of course, Horn's customary shifting timelines and Jewish lore. Now, you should know, it's not just isn't as good as it could have been; as good as I want it to be. After all, she did have four years to write it. And while it is interesting, just sort of blah. Some big ideas that don't pan out. Characters that just aren't likable, but not unlikable in an interesting way.

I've often thought about changing reading tastes, and I'm sure that has something to do with my current apathetic feelings towards truly talented writers. Law school did mean a three year gap in my career as a reader; there were bound to be some shifts. And I have found some new authors that I'm excited about. Sadly, they are only new to me, most of them being already dead (John Williams, Shirley Jackson, Stella Gibbons, Tove Jansson, Herman Melville). I guess what this all means is that I should be a little more open minded about advance reader copies and maybe pick up a few from authors I've never heard of...or I could just reread Moby Dick.