I haven’t had time to write any reviews. Of course this means that my to review pile is growing larger, and more difficult to review, so fulfilling some never-ending cycle that drives my partner to despair with the piles of Work-In-Progress books on every available surface and next to every comfortable chair.
But do you like read reviews anyway? Aren’t reviews more compelling when you’re already read the book, when you can hold some stranger’s assessment of a novel up against your own as part of some tribal ritual of belonging? The more artfully wrought a review, the funnier or cleverer the sleight of syntax, the more I want to read the novel, which makes me worry that my reviews just aren’t engaging or inspiring enough. Today I bought a Blind Date book for the first time – stuff the reviews, to hell with the blurb, let’s take a step into the unknown. I ended up with Jodi Picoult’s Second Glance. I have no idea if I’ll like it, I’ve never read Picoult before. Will I like it? I confess I had hoped for something else. I’m not sure what, but doesn’t that just speak to the power of the unknown? How compelling is the book wrapped in brown paper? Perhaps I should have left it wrapped.
I have been having a difficult time of it lately. A few weeks ago I had a couple of sick days which offered some enforced rest time. I immediately went out to buy some books, because what else would cheer me up quite so satisfyingly? I realised not just any old book would do. I needed a comfort book. The literary equivalent of a blanket and a cup of tea. It turns out my comfort book is where ever I’m up to in the Game of Thrones series at the time (three quarters through A Clash of Kings). The character and world they inhabit are familiar enough for me to pop into for an hour or two, the prose unchallenging but satisfying. I bought the next book in the series too, suddenly gripped by a paranoia that I would run out of that sweet, warming, distraction from what was a pretty miserable weekend all told.
Since then I’ve set down old faithful and picked up Idiopathy by Sam Byers. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m startled to find one of the characters reminds me very strongly of someone I know. So much so that I feel a little uncomfortable being privy to her innermost thoughts. I am disturbed and fascinated. I keep A Clash of Kings handy though, in case of emergencies. It’s like an old friend.
I hope I have a chance to write a review or two here soon. I don’t even really understand what compels me to do so. I think some part of that sad farewell you have to say to a novel on its last page makes me feel I owe it something. I need to engage on a deeper level than just closing the cover and putting it on a shelf. A review is a eulogy. I need to pay my respects.