...nothing here is promised, not one day... Lin-Manuel Miranda

Questioning Your Own Taste
Previous Entry :: Next Entry

Read/Post Comments (2)
Share on Facebook
It’s a given, especially here, that we don’t have the same tastes – even those of us who are super close friends, friends for decades, who agree on everything, well no one agrees on everything. And if we didn’t have differing tastes, every mystery would be blah blah blah.

Okay, we don’t need the caveat. You know I hated The DaVinci Code, and I know you love Evanovich. I don’t get why you read those cat books and you don’t understand my love of Stephen White’s thrillers when I can’t read Jon Kellerman. That’s taste. But, well, do you ever question?

Every so often, when folks ARE raving about a book, do you try it? And hate it? And wonder just why – is it you or is it them? You’re not trying to be contradictory right? I mean, I know I’m not. While it’s true that I never go out of my way to read books on best seller lists because most of the time when I’ve tried them, I’ve found them to be either a) bafflingly bad b) okay but just okay like dozens of other books or c) baffling. But I’m not so bad that I think “hmm, everyone is reading it so I won’t.” I’ve been like that, but it’s not really deliberate; it’s more knowing that I have weird tastes. Or different tastes. At times I think that’s a good thing – it can be handy. It can mean I’ don’t have to be number 437 on the reserve list at the library. (hey look! I’m 57th out of 97 at the Seattle library for THUD!) And I like to think it informs my reviews – that since I don’t like a lot of really popular stuff, that when I do rave about someone or something, it might have more meaning because I’m er, um, picky. Eclectic? I dunno, but I want to think it’s helpful that I don’t like a lot of what is out there.

But what it means is that every so often I wonder, well, not if I’m too picky, exactly, but if I really missed something. If I, say, gave up on a book too early because it’s getting so much praise. Or, say, in recent months, seeing reviews where characters were described as charming, interesting, intelligent when I found them rude, obnoxious and thick.

Sarah Weinman’s blog today (see above for link) has her usual “weekend round-up” describing who’s reviewing what. And sure enough there’s a book that I pretty much panned, being praised to the skies by one well-known critic. The reviewer calls a protagonist intelligent where I think the character’s gotten dumber as the years have gone on. I dunno if I’m less tolerant? Or more exacting? Do I expect more from my fictional people as I hope for from real ones?

Over on the Lipstick Chronicles, Nancy Martin proposed an alternative list to a big deal one. Apparently, Time Magazine listed “the top 100 novels” ever written in English; in response, Nancy asked a much more interesting question asking for 25 mysteries written by women that you’d consider, as she put it ”milestone books.” Books that changed things. And while YES some made total sense to me, many did not. Changed things? I found so many people listing middle of the list writers, middle of the road books. Now “Changed things” is a very significant and individual choice, right? And she even said “maybe they shook your world” was a qualification. So if it changed things for YOU, great. Maybe it got you to start reading, or writing mystery. That’s change all right. I was thinking sort of broadly – how in changed how people see mystery, how the field was changed.

So have you ever felt just a little out of step? Wondered what the fuss was? No names needed unless you want to. I KNOW for example I got way excited over Absent Friends and Every Secret Thing both were considered by many people to be difficult, hard to read, unpleasant, impossible books. I get that, I do. I know Larry Gandle for along time wondered what WAS it about Lippman that everyone adored so – why was she getting all those awards. And I’ve had that same jaw drop with popular books. That’s completely understandable. But have you ever gone back? Tried it again. Wondered “is it me?”

That’s happened to me not just with books but with authors – I’ve wondered. And yeah, I’ve tried another book by the author and well, it does seem that usually, my first impressions stick. Not always though. I give so many points to another writer I know who asked me over and over to try her work; I don’t know why, I don’t know where she got the courage to ask someone who said “sorry, I don’t like your stuff” (but honest to god, as nicely as I could) but cheers to her, my opinion mattered. Geez, how flattering is THAT, folks? And yes, it worked. NOT because I was flattered. But it just worked. I liked book 3. And I liked book 4. . I tried James Sallis years ago and couldn’t get into him; too dark, toooooo depressing. When I tried again more recently, I just stood there banging my head against the wall for what I’d missed, because I think Jim Sallis is one of THE finest writers I’ve ever read. Period. Full Stop. But those are few and far between.

So is it good that I don’t like popular books? That I almost never can come up with a “best of” list that has 10 books on it (I only do “best of 2005 if the books were WRITTEN in 2005. When folks do their lists on DorothyL, many list the best books they READ in that year without caring if it was first published in that year. I don’t know why it bugs me but it does when they do that. I can’t remember everything I’ve read (and I refuse to l keep lists of everything I read – it just seems too something….too what? Too fussy I guess – for what purpose? Once I’m done reading a book, I’m done. Or maybe the image of it just bothers me; too compulsive. (I just got a flash of a couple I know; they go to lots and lots of sporting events. They get score sheets and programs. And KEEP them. ALL of them. They are a couple probably close to my age and apparently have hundreds of these things. From games they attended years ago. It makes me really twitchy. I know it’s not quite “Grey Gardens” but it bothers me. NOT that this house ISN’T piled with stuff. But the score sheets from a 1993 Mariners game? Or a college basketball game? For what purpose? If they really can look at that and reminisce about THAT game, well, their brains sure are different from mine.) (yes, I have kept some ticket stubs. A few.) I find lists like “the best books I read last year) somehow not very informative. So you just discovered Grafton, huh? Oh. That’s nice. I don’t know why it bugs me about it does.

I do tend to remember what I’ve read so I don’t get it again from the library (except for that tricky title changing trick – oh, I was so happy to get the “new” Olen Steinhauer recently. Except I hadn’t been actually following things, didn’t go look at say his site to learn that, um, it’s the British title. Sigh.)

So I read reviews of a book that I couldn’t’ even finish, or finished and wondered what the fuss was about or just simply disliked and find it praised elsewhere – by someone who’s read a lot in the field too. So my reaction - is it just a sign that I’m a snob or ornery? Picky? Demanding? (Choose your synonym – the different between selective and picky is huge.) And if so, is that good?

Read/Post Comments (2)

Previous Entry :: Next Entry

Back to Top

Powered by JournalScape © 2001-2010 All rights reserved.
All content rights reserved by the author.