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Friday, January 23, 2015
2:25 pm est
Words of Wisdom
I was an ardent fan of the New York Times Sunday Book Review with its myriad redundant best
seller lists until I realized that the books listed were just that: best sellers, not necessarily best readings.
There is a distinct difference. Not all books that sell well read well or are ofany significant literary merit. But the editors
and reviewers of the NYTSBR want us to think otherwise. After all, aren’t they the end-all and be-all authorities
of the Literary World? To me, they are not.
Let me put this another way: Not all best selling books are best
reading; not all best readings are best sellers. Any thoughtful, discerning reader knows that.
Take a gander
at the more recent best seller lists and you’ll find more schlock and sensationalism than sensible and salutary writing.
These are books of which publishers report highest sales, not highest regard for literary talent and/or satisfaction. It’s
like reading a stock market report of B-rated worthless dollar bonds, without any knowledge of the companies who issued the
There are, of course, rare exceptions to this. Take, for example, The Secret Wisdom of the Earth a bold, sweeping literary offering by Christopher Scotton. This past Sunday a review of it by Daniel Woodrell was posted
in the NYTSBR. A decent review of a decent novel, although it (the review) breaks, like most reviewers for the New York
Times do, the cardinal rule of reviewing: Do not give away the plot. Woodrell’s review was so chuck full of spoiler
alerts that I wondered half-way through why I even bothered to read the novel in the first place (besides being asked to by
my editors at AE). There it is, in black and white, every last plot twist and character analysis originally conceived and
brilliantly written by Scotton – told second hand.
Why the editors (and readers) of the SBR tolerate this,
I do not know. Why bother buying a book if you get the gist through an often not-so-well written rehash of it in the Times?
More often than not, the reviews take away all the joy of discovering a new book, savoring each delicious anticipation, turning
each ink-scented page to see what comes next. Which is why I now read the review after I’ve read the book.
Makes my whole literary experience more enjoyable, which is the whole point of the endeavor. My heartfelt plea to the Times:
Please do NOT do this anymore. You are ruining it for prospective buyers and readers; for us authors; and for us reviewers
who have the decent sensitivity and integrity to know better.
That being said, this was the very first time
that I was “scooped” by the NYSBR. All of my other reviews for www.authorexposure.com (all 96) written over the span of three and a half years were posted (long) before the titles were even noticed by the Times.
That is, um, before their sales were high enough to warrant notice and listing on the, um, best selling lists. Some, of course,
did not even make the hallowed review pages. And most of these, rest assuredly, were of greatest literary merit. Which, in
some fashion, proves my point.
Anyway…Back to The Secret Wisdom of the Earth. I agree with the
Times reviewer (except for the blatant plot give-a-ways), including the “…tics that might grate and
… sometimes approximate and muddled … language.” But above this criticism, both of us found Scotton, albeit
a technology guru – not an author by vocation – quite a talented storyteller.
Before you read the
NYTSBR review, please read mine first. I think my comments will inspire you to buy, read, and enjoy the novel much
more than reading the rehash will.
J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is
an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations,
volumes of poetry, stories
for children (of all ages) and
a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Phoenix Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of
Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World
Rainbow in the Sky
of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A
Collection of More Spiritual Poems
We Three Kings
Beauty and the Beast
Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding
Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She
is currently working on her sixth novel.