Saturday, September 6, 2014

On Not Wanting to Read David Mitchell's "The Bone Clocks"

I am reading the rapturous reviews (and a couple of less rapturous ones) of David Mitchell’s new novel, “The Bone Clocks,” with trepidation. It may well be wonderful, but it is clearly not my kind of novel. Vanity Fair, for example, calls it “a “genre-warping, time-tripping, metaphysical thriller with a vengeance and a cast of thousands” (September 2014, p. 184). In my own reading choices, I am averse to each and every one of those five descriptors. More detailed descriptions of the novel have done nothing to make me think I would enjoy it or even get through it. That is all fine; I fully admit that my reading preferences are not always those of others, and I definitely understand that they may indicate limitations on my part. But what is the problem? Why can’t I just decide not to read “The Bone Clocks,” and leave it at that? Well, it seems that this novel is the latest “must-read,” and that I will feel out of touch and unadventurous if I am not willing to read it. Of course I have felt this dilemma numerous times over the years. And it is clearly not a big deal, for me or anyone else. But as I felt those familiar oh-oh feelings as I was reading the reviews, I was reminded of how we all have our own very clear preferences in reading, and of how those preferences do not necessarily align with what is anointed as “the best” by literary critics and other readers. And I was reminded of how I still have some of that feeling – perhaps left over from literature classes in college and graduate school? – that as a reader of serious fiction, I limit myself in ways that may or may not make sense, and may or may not be good for my own intellectual growth. Do any of you worry about this?
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