Thanks to those of you who commented on my first blog! I’m interested in everything you have to say, and re: The Corrections, I’ll also weigh in. When I read it about nine years ago, I thought it was The Great American Novel, why I no longer know. About the only thing I could remember from it now was a great scene where Chip is shoplifting a…well, I had remembered it as a steak, but when I looked at the book to check, it was a filet of wild Norwegian Salmon, line caught — much better choice. It costs $78.40, which is why he stuffs it down his pants. I relished these lines all over again: “Chip put his hand to his crotch. The dangling filet felt like a cool, loaded diaper.” Puts you right there, doesn’t it.
A friend wrote to say I should give Super Sad True Love Story another go, that once he (and his partner) got past the first 50 pages, it took off and they really, really enjoyed it. So I’m trying again (I bought it in hardback, after all). And I continue to ponder my initial query re: why readers respond so differently to books as I wade into Super Sad again, trying to be a little more tolerant this time.
I came upon an idea that shed some light for me on the matter of reader reactions in The Rhetoric of Fiction, by Wayne Booth, in which Booth refers to an essay by Walker Gibson called “Authors, Speakers, Readers, and Mock Readers.” Gibson says “the book we reject as bad is often simply a book in whose mock reader we discover a person we refuse to become, a mask we refuse to put on, a role we will not play.” I haven’t read Gibson’s essay but reading a little farther (thanks, Google), I believe what Gibson is saying is that all texts ask readers to take on a certain set of attitudes and preconceptions, and this so called resulting mock reader may or may not choose to accept the role of a willing reader.