Thursday, June 12, 2014
I rarely bend to hype.
This time I did.
I bought the book. I read.
I wonder how I would have felt about this book had there not been a blazing publicity campaign, and if I had not felt manipulated into reading. Would I have been more forgiving about its thin characterizations, its one-sided plot, its glib sleights of hand? Would I have received the book as I receive most books—as the best a well-meaning author could do?
Would I have found more to like?
Would I have drawn more gentle conclusions?
Would I give another book by this author a chance?
I suspect the answer is yes to all of the above. The narrative flaws would still be there, of course. The thinness, the surface crawl. But I suspect that I wouldn't feel angry (for in this case I felt angry) as I turned the last page. I wouldn't feel somehow stolen from. I wouldn't feel explicitly manipulated.
How complicit are authors in their own marketing campaigns? How do they really feel, behind the labels and the P.R. promise? It's different for everyone, of course, and no one can know how a hyped author actually feels when the book arrives with trumpets blaring.
But I think the book world, and book people, would be better off without shouting quite so loud about a package. Tell us what the book is and who loved it, absolutely. But keep that language real. Keep it realistic, too. Let us feel as if we found a book, and weren't commanded into reading.