Today’s question for the Thirty Day Book Challenge is “What is your least favorite book?” This is infinitely easier to answer than yesterday’s nearly impossible favorite book question, simply because I define my least favorite book as “whichever book I read most recently that bored the ever-loving shit out of me.” Unfortunately it leaves me with not too much to post about, because I’ve already panned The Magicians on this site before.
I will, however, give a very brief summary of why I find this book’s “critical acclaim” insufferable: Lev Grossman was in the comparative lit program at Yale, and basically did all-but-the-dissertation, then he went on to be a book critic at TIME. He writes a novel that very heavy-handedly borrows from C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling, calls the borrowed stuff an homage, and publishes it. The book is, while not terribly written and therefore unpublishable, not good. However, being in the right literary circles and being connected to book critics across the US mean it is hyped by critics, becomes a NYT best-seller, and is loved for being “innovative” by people who ordinarily would never touch a fantasy novel without a ten-foot pole and a whole hell of a lot of antiseptic. This frustrates me as a person who enjoys a good fantasy novel: while many fantasy novels are steaming piles of shit, there are excellent fantasy novels in existence. They’re just not usually written by the type of people who are deeply involved in the Ivy literary circles,* so they’re lumped in with the shit and treated as unimportant or uninteresting unless they’re really popular. The ones that are interesting or important seem to automatically become non-fantasy or sci-fi in the eyes of the literary world, or worse, are heralded as “yes this is fantasy, but it’s not, you know, fantasy.” I am currently giving one of the biggest rolleyes imaginable, just thinking about it.
* Here’s a hint: if English departments in colleges only have the “wacky” and young professors cover fiction like sci-fi and fantasy, it will remain solely genre in the eyes of many.** I’m getting tired of hearing authors who write novels that include fantasy or science fiction elements, or, hell, are straight-up science fiction or fantasy, deny that they’d ever have involvement in that crap.
** Well, second from the bottom. Harlequin Romance, anyone?