Sunday, January 14, 2007

Against the grain

And speaking of the New York Review of Books, given the critical hammering that has by and large been meted out to Thomas Pynchon's "Against The Day", it was surprising, and also refreshing, to see it described by Luc Sante in such a way as to make it sound like something you would not so much want, as have, to read. (Sante tends to know of what he speaks; and his book "Low Life" is perenially near to top of my "books I really must read" list.)

(And while we are all about books, what is it with Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times? Three times, now, she has been guilty in recent months of describing something as reading like a parody of a book by the author she is reviewing: first the new Richard Ford novel, then "Against The Day", and now, in a review of the new Martin Amis, she has felt compelled to use the same description in relation to his previous novel, "Yellow Dog" (which I actually enjoyed, precisely because it read like a Martin Amis novel). Isn't such an observation (as well as being a cheap shot) as much a vindication of a writer's distinctive style as it is a criticism, if not more so? Isn't she really saying, "I don't like this book because I liked other books like this written by this person?" I mean, what if the new Thomas Pynchon read like a novel by, oh I don't know, Ben Elton? Would that make it alright? Just asking.)

(Of course, if Michiko Kakutani were reviewing the previous paragraph she would point to its excessive, and confusing, use of parentheses and say that it read like a parody of one of my paragraphs.)