So my friend D told me about this book he’s reading–Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story. I normally like post-apocalyptic kinds of books, because that kind of thing could really happen and it’s good to be prepared. I’m not saying I have a room full of canned goods, a la Y2K (remember that?), or that I have an arsenal of weapons for when the zombies attack, or even that I’ve brushed up on my necessary survival skills recently. I just find stories of a complete reversal of normalcy and imagined responses to cataclysmic events interesting. One of the best I’ve read in this genre is Stephen King’s The Stand, and even though the woo-woo factor comes into play, it’s a really good read.
So D tells me the title of this book and I’m all “I’m pretty much living that, so ya know. Not sure I need to read about it.” Which is true, I am living my own super sad true love story, with as much dignity and hope as I can muster–and that’s admittedly not a whole lot sometimes–but I was curious enough to look the title up on Amazon.
I won’t be reading the book, but I do love reading the reviews. Harriet Klausner aside–and it’s kind of sad that she’s no longer gushing about every single book ever published, even if she did make me feel kind of queasy about it–book reviews are sometimes better than the book itself.
How can you not love the reviewer who says the work is “constipated with irony”? Or “beguiling . . . then kinda dull”? One reviewer found it a “delightful discovery,” while a few reviews later, the work is called “a mixture of dog excrement and some good food.” Yum.
My favorite review in recent weeks, however, was for that book of the moment, 50 Shades of Grey. Here’s another book I won’t be reading, because why read crap when there’s good stuff out there? I don’t have anything in particular against erotica, other than it’s just–well, boring after a while. The vocabulary is so very limited and the feverish efforts to maintain arousal become laughable. Check out pretty much anything within the genre if you don’t believe me. But! the reviews. Ah–those are interesting, and in all the book reviews I’ve read over the years, this has got to be one of the very best:
An older man on truckling
First, a disclaimer. I am a male senior citizen, a semi-retired gynecologist whose customary literary fare is spy novels and military techno-thrillers. I have never read a romance before, except perhaps for junior high’s “A Tale of Two Cities” (or was that a classic?) But after the recent hullabaloo over James’ “Fifty Shades,” I opted to give the genre a glance.
The book’s protagonist is college student Anastasia, who has never had sex or even “touched herself.” I had to suspend disbelief at the social and sexual naivete of this twenty-one year-old, but I guess this implied vulnerability makes her more attractive as a romantic heroine. Yet it doesn’t take her long to rectify this situation, and soon she is having orgasm after orgasm at the behest of her “dominant” partner, Mr. Grey. At my age, my arthritis flared up just reading about Ana’s sexual gymnastics. And for some reason, I kept thinking about her contracting genital warts. Soon, however, Ana’s endless pyrotechnic climaxes resembled repetitively watching porn: after a while, it leaves me bored and yawning. That said, there was a definite infectiousness to the plot; and taking Viagra to stiffen my resolve, I persevered.
James’ strong suit is her ability to elicit sympathy in the protagonist. I wanted to find out what happened to Anastasia, and that lent the story a compelling, page-turning quality. James is a polished novelist. Her dialogue is crisp, her prose poised, and her paragraphs well-parsed. The author’s considerable skills notwithstanding, would I pick up an erotic romance like this again? Probably not.
But that’s just me.
That’s good reading!