Let apples be apples; let mice be mice

We need to make it clear that there is no one “best kind” of fiction. We need to stop insisting that apples should taste like oranges and elephants must behave like mice. Why give a nice fresh apple to someone who prefers oranges and ask him to tell us how it tastes? Why try to cram an elephant into a Volkswagen Beetle? Especially when the thing’s already full of so many clowns? Okay, now I’m starting to sound like my first grade gym teacher whose drunken “one rotten apple can spoil the whole barrel” speech has been seered into my brain for the past 25 years. We never did get to play on the ropes that day. It was a looooong speech.

Anyway. Ana Marie Cox said something clever recently (in this article) about how reviews are not meant for writers but for readers. And, mostly, I agree with her. That’s why I think it would be more helpful to readers if book reviews were written as a kind of dialogue between at least two reviewers – someone who is likely to be a book’s “ideal reader” and someone who is not. Because I think it’s important to highlight and to celebrate in every way we possibly can that reading literature is an intensely personal and subjective experience.


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