Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Damning with great praise

by Miriam

Saying that the reviews for Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom have been positive is like saying McDonald's has sold a few burgers. Running the gamut from “a work of total genius” (New York Magazine) to “a masterpiece” (The New York Times Book Review)—and those are just the local rags—the orgasmic praise is, frankly, a little daunting. The expectations for this book are so high (from readers, booksellers and the novel’s publisher) that even President Obama getting an A.R.C. from a bookseller while on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard set off an industry panic attack.

As someone who read The Corrections with equal measures wonder and awe, I plan to get my copy of Freedom as soon as I can find my way to a bookstore when the book pubs next week. I worry, however, that, after all the early hosannas, I will find a comfortable chair, bribe my husband and four-year-old to give me a few hours of uninterrupted reading time, and find myself…disappointed. I am determined to come to the book with an open mind despite all the raves I’ve already been privy to, but Mr. Franzen is going to have to wow me anew before I jump on the laudatory bandwagon. I do feel for the guy, though. That mountain of praise is a long uphill climb.

Do you guys ever resent the media hype of big books (if I see one more Facebook post about Mockingjay…) and do you feel it negatively impacts your reading experience?

9 comments:

  1. I think you have a good point. Too much positive...no...raving...media hype about anything can be detrimental. I know several people who won't read popular book series' because they don't want to look like they're jumping on the bandwagon (yeah, Mockingjay, Twilight, etc).

    And for those who do choose to read anyway, when the hype is that great, it's almost seems like its easier to be disappointed. Like nothing can live up to those kinds of promises.

    So short answer to your question - yes, it definitely can.

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  2. When a book disappoints me, I (like to) think my judgment is based on more objective grounds than a book/author not living up to its hype. But in those cases where I get disappointed, the feeling is bigger, goes deeper, and lasts longer and definitely has a touch of feeling cheated. If anything it impacts my spending behaviour, because I won't easily be convinced to buy another book from that author.

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  3. Not me. I heard all kinds of great things about Hunger Games before I read it and I liked it. I heard all kinds of great things about Catching Fire before I read it and I didn't like it nearly as much.

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  4. I know exactly what you mean about "the hype." I wrote about it on my blog as well http://tericarter.wordpress.com

    I was most troubled (irritated?) by the 3 reviews by the NYT. Overkill. All this makes me, sadly, very skeptical.

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  5. I think we risk being disappointed by anything that's overly hyped, whether it's books or music or movies or something else. The hype makes us have higher expectations going in than we would otherwise, and sometimes as a result, we look for flaws. Or we become skeptical and almost will ourselves not to like the thing in question. Or we feel saddened or betrayed if we just don't like it as much as everyone else seems to. We expect overhyped things to be perfect, but nothing is, so we're disappointed.

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  6. I got just 3 words for you:

    The Fifth Sorceress.

    :P

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  7. Word of mouth is extremely powerful and when I hear a lot of people--especially people that I respect--praising something, I am automatically interested. However, when the hype is huge, I'm skeptical. I always go into these kinds of adventures very negatively. I ask the books to simply impress me a little bit. I look for what makes it so good to so many people. Harry Potter impressed me. Twilight did not. I'm hoping, whenever I get my hands on Hunger Games, that it impresses me as well. I expect the worst so that it can thrive!

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  8. Hype is good for sales. Not always so for readers. Don't usually fall prey.

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  9. Why don't you tell the truth about you writing that Obama was born in Kenya. Does truth mean anything. Liberalism is destroying your home country of Spain, why would you support the same policies here. Do the right thing. Integrity is getting more and more rare in America.

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