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This is what a good review does: It Diagnoses and Distinguishes the Qualities of a Book.

That is what you will do, as a reader, if you want to develop a larger understanding of books, with more color and nuance in it. There are indeed plenty of other things you can do in a book review, which are also informative or entertaining. But Diagnosing and Distinguishing is a strong foundation to build your review on.

This week we're looking at what Michiko Kakutani gets wrong, and C. S. Lewis got right. This is a short diary, with one strong point to make - which is the best advice I've ever read about how to write a Book Review:

Keep a strict eye on eulogistic & dyslogistic adjectives — They should Diagnose (not merely blame) & Distinguish (not merely praise.)                   - C. S. Lewis

Slate had an article, seven years ago: Assessing Michiko Kakutani. If you haven't read the New York Times Book Reviews, or any of a thousand blurbs on recent books, Michiko Kakutani is the top NYTimes Book Reviewer and, therefore, has great influence in the business. I've read several reviews she wrote, and found her intelligent but uninspiring. She seems to get the gist of the books she reads, but she never makes me want to dash out and get them too. Perhaps she's more persuasive and precise, when she finds a favorite book that grabs her imagination.

If you've read some of Michiko Kakutani's reviews, please comment below on how they struck you. Remember to Diagnose her strengths, and Distinguish her faults - if you can recall them.

The Slate article seems thoughtful, well-supported and clear. The particular flaw it diagnoses in Kakutani's writing is a very common one. The vast majority of reviews, if you include the brief opinions readers pass on to their friends, merely tell the listener how far up or down our thumbs are - how much we like or dislike the book. You will find many reviews in newspapers, where the reviewer spends a few paragraphs sharing their view of the book. But their opinion turns out to be a skeleton of the plot, and half a dozen different adjectives which boil down to bad, or good, or superb.

Here is the start of Ben Yagoda's critique of Michiko Kakutani:

Michiko Kakutani recently embarked on her 25th year as a New York Times book critic, and it's gotten to the point that when her name is mentioned in print, you can see the smoke rising from the page. The late Susan Sontag complained, "Her criticisms of my books are stupid and shallow and not to the point." Salman Rushdie referred to her as "a weird woman who seems to feel the need to alternately praise and spank." Most notoriously, last year Norman Mailer called Kakutani, who is of Japanese descent, a "one-woman kamikaze" and a "token" minority hire.

Those who rip her are usually authors she has ripped, and their indignation often muddies their logic. Certainly Mailer's insinuations, in addition to being boorish, are unsupportable. It should be clear to anyone who has read Kakutani's reviews that she has an estimable intelligence; she backs this up with what must be many real or virtual all-nighters in which she digests every word ever published by the writer under review. She takes books seriously, a valuable and ever-rarer trait. Furthermore, in my observation, she is more or less right in her judgments most of the time. (I slightly knew Kakutani when we were undergraduates at Yale about 30 years ago but have not spoken to her since.)

But the sour-grapes sniping from spurned authors should not obscure the fact that Kakutani is a profoundly uninteresting critic. Her main weakness is her evaluation fixation. This may seem an odd complaint—the job is called critic, after all—but in fact, whether a work is good or bad is just one of the many things to be said about it, and usually far from the most important or compelling. . . . One has the sense of her deciding roughly at Page 2 whether or not a book is worthy; reading the rest of it to gather evidence for her case; spending some quality time with the Thesaurus; and then taking a large blunt hammer and pounding the message home.

Yagoda's piece is short, and well worth reading. He shows examples, finds patterns, and ends up revealing the salient lineaments of Kakutani's style, including its strongest and weakest features.

Kakutani has an almost impossible job. She's inundated with books. If a hot author brings out a new tome, NYTimes readers want to know what she thinks of it by yesterday. I think Kakutani is the victim of her own success, and of the pressure. She's found an effective way to power through thousands of pages every month, and glean enough from their surfaces to stick glossy labels on them.

Lord, how I sympathize. I never wanted to be doing this: Writing a diary every week. I want to write a fresh, sharp, deep and poetic diary every week. It ain't easy - and I'm not there yet. In my case, I can hone my methods in many ways, I can try dozens of different approaches to books, I can throw it all at the wall and see what sticks. But the NYTimes is a bit less laissez-faire than R&BLers.

What a wonderful, horrible life Michiko has. She gets to meet all the authors she admires, and feel the electricity at the heart of America's literary world. Before they're even published, she gets free copies of the latest magnificent novels: Margaret Atwood, Roberto Bolaño, Jonathan Franzen, Kazuo Ishiguro, Jhumpa Lahiri, Ian McEwan, Orhan Pamuk, Marilynne Robinson, Zadie Smith. Then she gets one or two days to finish the book.

How can you find all the qualities, in such huge and intricate works, with the clock always ticking over your shoulder? On the other hand, this is where Michiko shows her form. She's a champion marathon runner, never getting distracted or breaking her stride. If she was the kind of woman who yearned to stretch out, to bask in the luxuriance of rich prose, she'd miss all her deadlines. You've got to hand it to her - this is a woman with powerful focus, and a mammoth attention span.

So far, Yagoda has only slammed Kakutani. Here comes the dunk:

As a student at Oxford, the future drama critic Kenneth Tynan got back a paper with this comment: "Keep a strict eye on eulogistic & dyslogistic adjectives—They shd diagnose (not merely blame) & distinguish (not merely praise.)" Tynan's tutor, who happened to be C.S. Lewis, was offering a lesson Kakutani could have benefited from. "Utterly devoid … wonderfully acute observations … debut novel … savvy social and psychological insights … cringe-making … embarrassing new low": Virtually every word or phrase is a cliché, or at best shopworn and lifeless,and evidence of Kakutani's solid tin ear. (She has justly been called out for her near-obsessive use of "lugubrious" and "limn," words that probably have never been said aloud in the history of English.) That's what can happen to a writer when she merely praises and merely blames. Kakutani appears incapable of engaging with language, either playfully or seriously, which puts her at a painful disadvantage when she is supposed to be evaluating writers who can and do. Here, she tries to energize the prose with lapel-grabbing intensifiers like utterly and wonderfully and superfluous adjectives like savvy and embarrassing, but they just make her look like she's protesting too much. (Another Lewis quote with relevance to Kakutani: "If we are not careful criticism may become a mere excuse for taking revenge on books whose smell we dislike by erecting our temperamental antipathies into pseudo-moral judgments.")
I expect Kakutani's primary reaction is to the smell of a book: Combining her emotional reaction to the first few pages, with her prejudicial instincts towards the author, before she even opened the book. Many readers judge books like this, semi-unconsciously. But Kakutani has devoured libraries of well-written novels, so she surely gets past her primary reaction frequently. Books will surprise her, and prove far better or far worse than they smelt. She does have sharp critical faculties. But she rarely has time to stretch her antennae and measure the book twice, and she seldom stretches her own eloquence to paint a vivid and precise painting of all the qualities in the book.

Now that you've read your vegetables, and gotten your edification, here is some entertaining dessert for you, my sweet and patient reader. I have another short piece, ripe to bursting with all the flavors, humor and personal voice we couldn't find in Kakutani's work. It's a delicious, affectionate skewering:

What started as a basically innocent college prank has gotten seriously out of hand, and, at the urging of the small group of people who know the truth, I have decided to come forward and admit it.

I am Michiko Kakutani.

Many people will have a hard time accepting the idea that a basically undistinguished middle-aged white man living in Hartford, Connecticut, is actually the brilliant, acerbic, reclusive, rarely photographed lynx-like New York Times book critic and Pulitzer winner.

But I am. . . .

Go read the whole thing. It'll take you five minutes and, after a long hard week, you deserve a little fun.

When you write a book review, be sure to put as much flavor into it as you can fit. If you're asking yourself "Do I really need that adjective? I never use it, ever", then it's probably just the word your review needs, to show the exact hue of the writing, and your experience of it.

Here's someone who always looks for the very quiddity of the book, for what sets it apart from other books, its unique flavor: R&BLers own Limelite. The last book diary she wrote, R&BLers: Galloping Through the Reading Year 2013, contains eleven paragraphs on eleven books. It includes gems like:

TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

McCann’s prose style is lyric, poetic, and hypnotic echoing the movement of the sea, seducing us into hearing buried, seemingly disparate stories unfold and reveal themselves in an epic novel about risk, perseverance, human understanding, and reverence for language.

Benediction by Kent Haruf

Haruf’s prose is spare and lean, much like the environment of Holt; it is direct and without embellishment, much like the people of Holt; and it is also respectful and objective, which lends the text the dignity that suffuses the book.

The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig

All the characters are drawn with the sure but minimalist hand of Japanese watercolor, so alive and individual that you can hear their voices echo in your head as if from another room. This small, simple, and evocative novel reminds us of the wonder of childhood, and more the value of a free public education.  Doig is the master of warmth and the word artist of Montana’s landscapes and pioneers.

This is what a good review does: It captures the flavor of the plot, the characters, and especially the writing. It lets us taste what the fuss is about.

We can just take it as a given that I'm the best book reviewer in R&BLers. All the voices in my head agree on that.

Who else have you read, here at Daily Kos or out in the wide world, who can perfectly freeze-dry a book into their review of it, capturing the essential flavors of a novel in several paragraphs or pages of prose? Please link to a diary or webpage of that reviewer's work, if you can find it.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar & (28+ / 0-)

    Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule

    DAY TIME (EST/EDT) Series Name Editor(s)
    SUN 6:00 PM Young Reader's Pavilion The Book Bear
    Sun 2:00 PM What's on Your E-Reader? Caedy
    Sun 9:30 PM SciFi/Fantasy Book Club quarkstomper
    Bi-Monthly Sun Midnight Reading Ramblings don mikulecky
    alternate Mondays
    2:00 PM Political Books Susan from 29
    Mon 8:00 PM Monday Murder Mystery michelewln, Susan from 29
    Mon 11:00 PM My Favorite Books/Authors edrie, MichiganChet
    TUES 5:00 PM Indigo Kalliope: Poems from the Left bigjacbigjacbigjac
    alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM LGBT Literature Texdude50, Dave in Northridge
    alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM All Things Bookstore Dave in Northridge
    Tue 8:00 PM Contemporary Fiction Views bookgirl
    WED 7:30 AM WAYR? plf515
    Wed 2:00 PM e-books Susan from 29
    Wed 8:00 PM Bookflurries Bookchat cfk
    THU 8:00 PM Write On! SensibleShoes
    Thu (first each month) 11:00 AM Monthly Bookpost AdmiralNaismith
    alternate Thursdays 11:00 PM Audiobooks Club SoCaliana
    FRI 8:00 AM Books That Changed My Life Diana in NoVa
    Fri 8:00 PM Books Go Boom! Brecht; first one each month by ArkDem14
    Fri 10:00 PM Slightly Foxed -- But Still Desirable shortfinals
    SAT (fourth each month) 11:00 AM Windy City Bookworm Chitown Kev
    Sat 12:00 PM You Can't Read That! Paul's Book Reviews pwoodford
    Sat 9:00 PM Books So Bad They're Good Ellid

    "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

    by Brecht on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 04:24:35 PM PDT

  •  Thanks JoanMar, for showing me how to Link (12+ / 0-)

    so that the link automatically opens a new tab when clicked.

    Also, for being sweet and dandy in general.

    "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

    by Brecht on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 05:11:56 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for Lewis quote (15+ / 0-)

    His writing on writing is some of the best.  Thanks for this quote:

    "If we are not careful criticism may become a mere excuse for taking revenge on books whose smell we dislike by erecting our temperamental antipathies into pseudo-moral judgments."
  •  Good diary!! (15+ / 0-)


    Limelite has enticed me into reading several books.  :)

    Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 05:32:44 PM PDT

  •  symptomatic of the viciousness of publishing (12+ / 0-)

    and the prima donnas promoted by the industry

    Kakutani has an almost impossible job. She's inundated with books. If a hot author brings out a new tome, NYTimes readers want to know what she thinks of it by yesterday. I think Kakutani is the victim of her own success, and of the pressure. She's found an effective way to power through thousands of pages every month, and glean enough from their surfaces to stick glossy labels on them.

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

    by annieli on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 05:41:43 PM PDT

  •  Some books are just fun to read (10+ / 0-)

    I remember reading a reviewer’s critique of Inferno by Dan Brown and the reviewer blasted Brown for his writing.  Couldn’t bring himself to say anything nice about Brown or his book.

    What the review doesn’t realize is that some books are just plain fun to read.  I read Inferno and loved it.  Sometimes while reading Inferno I felt like I was on a roller-coaster ride and who doesn’t love that!  

    Interesting topic, though.  Sorry I don’t have more to add to the discussion.

    Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket. Eric Hoffer

    by LynChi on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 05:42:13 PM PDT

    •  You added three paragraphs, an opinion with some (11+ / 0-)

      real flavor to it, and a controversial book/author worth talking about. Thank you.

      I read one and a half Dan Brown's: Da Vinci Code, and Angels &

      The "roller-coaster ride" was the best part of it for me. The puzzles were fun. And he hit a gusher in the zeitgeist, with his whole hidden knowledge/religious conspiracy thriller plot.

      I agree with the commonest criticisms you hear, though. One of them is the theme of this diary: his writing has neither the flavor nor craft in it to make a great novel (many would say, or a good one). And his characters don't breathe, shimmer and grow, like great characters.

      Considering how completely Brown conquered the world, there may be more on the plus side. But I haven't ferreted it out yet.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 06:40:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I've written a lot of reviews for ARCs (15+ / 0-)

    and what I try to do is to establish for anyone reading the review what sort of person might enjoy reading this book.

    If I am reviewing a book that might be purchased for a child or a young adult, I try to give a sense of the reading level and the maturity level that is right for the book.

    If there is a question of sexual content, I try to give the reader a sense of how explicit it is.

    When you read enough of these, you're struck by how many ways there are to mess up a novel. I recall in particular a young adult book that was full of complicated vocabulary and imagery and yet the plot was maybe at a 3rd grade level. I was having a tough time figuring out who would be satisfied reading it.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 05:50:51 PM PDT

    •  "how many ways there are to mess up a novel" (12+ / 0-)

      Yes indeedy. There's a lovely definition of a novel: "A piece of writing, of a certain length, that has something wrong with it."

      It sounds like you're doing just what you should, and considering crucial angles that many reviewers (and authors, judging by your last paragraph) don't account for.

      Adult readers will read reviews just to be entertained by the review itself, or because they enjoy the voice of that reviewer. I do too. But it's not really what a review is for. Especially with children and young adults, what you're trying to do is give them the clearest view of the book itself, to decide whether it's for them.

      I find it a particularly rare and special pleasure, when an author can take me right inside the mind of a 15 or 8-year-old, so it feels natural and true.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 06:50:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I never wanted to write a book review. I wanted (13+ / 0-)

    to write about a book or a genre, or an author. To share with others something that I had gleaned from all of the written pages. So I have not always followed the rules for book reviews, veering into different pathways that intrigued me about the book or its creator.

    Sometimes it is the setting that catches my attention, or the era. Then I find myself doing the tunneling that cfk wrote about in one of her Bookchat diaries and instead of writing about Bess Crawford, I found the post WWI era in England to be so interesting that I read non-fiction and mysteries and combined them all into a single diary.

    I love the freedom to simply talk about a book and encourage others to do the same. But after reading your diary, Brecht, I wonder if I should start taking the review process more seriously.

    •  "I wonder if I should start taking the review . . (10+ / 0-)

      process more seriously." Please don't do that; you're so good at doing it your way.

      I think that if someone had never written a book review, this would be a good piece to read before they start. And it bears thinking about, for any  reviewer, or any writer. Don't we love it when Shakespeare stretches his vocabulary, and plucks a brand new word from the sky? Or when Joyce devours the whole OED, so that he can spit back a rare word to nail the thing itself?

      I would like to improve my craft, and I can see a dozen things to work on. I can't help but build systems of understanding in my mind: I have this OCD terrier in me, who digs and digs until the whole skeleton emerges from the dirt.

      But that stretching is the real fun of it. I'm with you. I'm like a chef with a huge kitchen, a full pantry - and all the family went away for the week. I just want to invent new dishes. I want to write diaries that review up to an inch away from the text; and that stretch across the whole canon, and put it in boxes; and that rampage through a book we all think we know, nailing all the furniture to the ceiling; and that show you a handful of questions, which was all I could grasp, because that book was beyond me.

      So, yes, you're right,

      veering into different pathways that intrigued me
      is the heart of our enterprise, and a chief joy in it. If you're excited and curious, odds are your readers will be too. I think you should take the fun of it very seriously indeed.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 07:22:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for a lovely piece Brecht..... (9+ / 0-)

    MUCH appreciated.

    'Lugubrious'? I've used it...blast, I even used 'demesne' (in an alliterative sense) and made Limelite snigger this week when I used 'vade mecum'.....

    I'm a Metallurgy & Materials Sciences major gone BAD, I tell you!

    I doubt I would ever write a full review of a book, but if I attempt to do so, I'm using your guidelines......

    Many thanks


    •  My daughter used "lugubrious" once (3+ / 0-)

      when criticizing my fondness for Finnish folk music....

      I rather suspect she's used it at other times too. Heck, after that traumatic experience I've used it myself!

    •  I once pronounced "homage" the French way (using (5+ / 0-)

      it accurately), and my best friend made fun of me for years.

      If you get around to book reviews, or favorite author reviews, there are lots of ways to do it, and it can be a good way to grapple more deeply with art you care about. I've reread several books to diary, and they got much subtler since I last read them.

      But I think you and I grab our subjects from opposite ends. You're more Aristotelian/empirical, grabbing for the substance of your diverse subjects; I'm more Platonic/idealist, working on my systems, testing how they might include one thing or another.

      Do you know Isaiah Berlin's The Hedgehog and the Fox?

      The title is a reference to a fragment attributed to the ancient Greek poet Archilochus: πόλλ' οἶδ' ἀλώπηξ, ἀλλ' ἐχῖνος ἓν μέγα ("the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing"). . . .

      Berlin expands upon this idea to divide writers and thinkers into two categories: hedgehogs, who view the world through the lens of a single defining idea (examples given include Plato, Lucretius, Dante, Pascal, Hegel, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Ibsen, and Proust) and foxes who draw on a wide variety of experiences and for whom the world cannot be boiled down to a single idea (examples given include Herodotus, Aristotle, Erasmus, Shakespeare, Montaigne, Molière, Goethe, Pushkin, Balzac, Joyce, Anderson).

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 08:57:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  as always, fascinating diary (3+ / 0-)

    and so much to digest.

    i'm still chuckling over the james wood / zadie smith clash of the titans imagery, a very choice paragraph.

    as i am not familiar with this, would you consider kakutani's work to be in the same genre as wood/smith? that would be literary criticism versus book reviewer, i suppose.

    i was thinking with respect to the issues of diagnosing and distinguishing, i rarely think about those issues when i read a book review but now i am more aware.  

    when i read a book for my bookgroup, i invariably seek book reviews, especially when i find the book to be intriguing. i find the most valuable book reviews for me are those that illuminate something interesting, usually personal to the reviewer. did they find something valuable and of meaning to them?  i find kakutani's reviews to be full of words but of little meaning to me. i can tell we read the same book but i usually disagree with her. i'm not sure what it is but she seems too facile or flippant or simply too brilliant for me to understand her.  as to whether she diagnoses or distinguishes, i am thinking i need to go back and reread her reviews again but, honestly, i just don't want to right now.  guess i'm being a bit grumpy.

    •  I'll bet Wood & Smith both saw that paragraph, and (5+ / 0-)

      were tickled by it.

      would you consider kakutani's work to be in the same genre as wood/smith?
      Yes - but it's kind of as if they all wrote short stories, but Wood & Smith wrote novels, too. Actually, it turns out that Wood has written a novel, and Smith's written four. More to the point, Smith has a book of essays (on books, culture, things that caught her eye), and Wood has three books of reviews, and the more systematic How Fiction Works.

      So all three read voraciously, and process their quarry into reviews. But Wood and Smith have a different level of impact on the conversation (it seems to me, from articles I've read). Wood is often called the top lit. critic around: Teaches at Harvard, moved from the Guardian to the New Yorker, in part because they let him stretch out into really long reviews there. Being on top, Wood takes a lot of flak, including a website which only attacks him.

      The difference in their reviews is, Wood and Smith are better writers, with far more distinctive voices than Kakutani. They could review boring books, and the reviews would still be colorful and fun to read. Also, Wood and Smith are more ambitious, contending with literature as a whole, while Kakutani just snacks on it, one bite at a time.

      As you indicate, another way to see it is that Kakutani does not hunt for personal illumination. This finding-the-flavor approach is a good standard - but any eloquent essayist will occasionally get swept into their personal response. Hungry readers like that, and Wood and Smith have earned the space to do that when they please. But neither Kakutani nor the NYTimes readers are looking for much of that from her.

      Being very Brecht, I have sometimes been swept off course in book reviews, and made it all about my personal illumination. But I still feel a responsibility to my readers, to show them the shape and flavor of the book. I did have a couple of flat out essays; but I think my most subjective book review (with some justification - it was for Books That Changed My Life) was The Golden Notebook. I got through all the shape and flavor stuff in 17 lines, above the fold; then I leaped off, at four times the length, into how one idea from Lessing's book changed my life.

      In the end, though, anyone who goes to the trouble of writing a book review should do it however they see fit.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 09:48:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My biggest problem in (6+ / 0-)

    writing reviews is my penchant to get hang up on details.

    I'll give you an example:
    A historical romance set in nineteenth century England found the heroine kidnapped from a ballroom, rescued by the hero and both of them traipsing over hills and valleys to get from London to Scotland. It bothered me that the author didn't talk about blistered feet. It bothered me so much that I got a pair of ballet flats and walked 2 miles to see if it was at all possible to walk that far in ballroom shoes without getting your feet all bloodied.

    That little detail turned me off the book...and the author and my review would be centered around that fact.

    Talking about details,  Ben Yagoda said:

    (I slightly knew Kakutani when we were undergraduates at Yale about 30 years ago but have not spoken to her since.)
    Was he in on the "hoax" or was he caught lying?

    Maya Angelou: "Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest."

    by JoanMar on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 08:08:54 PM PDT

    •  There's no hoax. Colin McEnroe was a very naughty (5+ / 0-)

      boy, making gleeful fun of poor Ms. Michiko.

      Walking two miles in ballroom flats: I respect your persnicketiness, and dedication to honesty in art. I get upset with a lot of SF shows, because so many of them have huge plot holes and inconsistencies (e.g. half the episodes of Fringe).

      I really respect an author who aims for verisimilitude in all aspects of their novel - for example, Flaubert, Tolstoy and George Eliot were way ahead their mid-1800s competition, for accurate world-creating. But if that's not what you're best at, there are ways around it. Try not to include the details you're not sure of; write a plot so gripping, your readers don't have time to inspect the scenery closely (Dan Brown does this).

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 08:43:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Many books are fantasies (4+ / 0-)

      We don't want to hear about bruised and bloody feet in an escapist book...nor that getting shot in the shoulder can be a seriously incapacitating wound and not just something for the hero to grimace at while the attractive girl winds a flimsy bandage around him just before they have head-board breaking sex.

      Heck, I even appreciate it when Hollywood lets the hero look a bit bruised half a day after getting the holy hand grenade kicked out of him when he'd really be nursing ice-packs, mainlining Tylenol, and peeing pink.

      I'd have more problem with them walking from London to Scotland which, according to Google, would take almost five days over modern pedestrian paths and roads. Sometimes 'suspension of disbelief' is more like building the Golden Gate Bridge but if I'm willing to forgive a lot if the book (or the movie) is otherwise compelling.

      Support Small Business: Shop Kos Katalogue including Hero for Hire, an epic fantasy with a sense of humor by C.B. Pratt

      by wonderful world on Sat Aug 31, 2013 at 05:58:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Agree. The author just needs to firmly grasp their (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RiveroftheWest, wonderful world

        own narrative world, and keep it true to the rules and background it establishes.

        If you're writing a gritty tale of downtrodden labor and socialist meetings, we need to smell the dirt and feel the drafty attic; if you're writing magical realism, you need to tell your spells with a straight face and delicious charm; in a good romance, draw a subtle and convincing tale of two hearts, and we'll forgive you the puffed up scenery and pile of coincidences.

        A sharp reader picks up on this conviction and consistency without thinking. We get caught up in the writer's tapestry, and we feel instantly when they leave a hole or patch it with a different fabric.

        "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

        by Brecht on Sat Aug 31, 2013 at 01:05:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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