Monday, October 1, 2012

J.K. Rowling and the Scathing Review

It's October! Cue one of my favorite U2 songs! I'm wearing three scarves today! Hooray for autumn!

Okay, now that I've got my seasonal ya-yas out, let's move on. 

J.K. Rowling's new book, The Casual Vacancy, is now out. As expected for an author of such renown, her book is getting a ton of attention.


Some of it, however, is not the good kind of attention.

The famous Pulitzer-prize winning NY Times book reviewer, Michiko Kakutani, posted an unfavorable review of Rowling's book.

Some choice quotes:

"Unfortunately, the real-life world she has limned in these pages is so willfully banal, so depressingly clich├ęd that “The Casual Vacancy” is not only disappointing — it’s dull."

"Instead of an appreciation for the courage, perseverance, loyalty and sense of duty that people are capable of, we are left with a dismaying sense of human weakness, selfishness and gossipy stupidity."

The whole review is here. And in case you are wondering:

limn (l m). tr.v. limned, limn·ing (l m n ng), limns. 1. To describe. 2. To depict by painting or drawing. (from the Free Dictionary)

(I'm not too embarrassed to say I had to look it up.)

So. 

Did Kakutani's review affect me? Yes.

Will it prevent me from reading Rowling's book? No. My biggest barrier is the many others books ahead of it right now. The review didn't make the book shoot up my TBR list to the next one in line. But I remain rabidly curious about how a kidlit author shifted gears to write a contemporary, adult book, and whether she was successful or not. I also cannot seem to kick my affection for Rowling as the author of some of my favorite books of all time.

How about you? What affect does a review by such a famous reviewer on such a famous author have on you?

47 comments:

Deborah Walker said...

I don't really care about reviews. Many's a time a book has had excellent reviews and I've hated it. And vice versa.

What pressure is on Rowling. I admire her for not resting on her success. She's a true writer.

Old Kitty said...

Oh the lovely JK's new adult book has some very mixed reviews - the BBC helpfully gathered most of them on their site including Mr Kakutani's! Makes for very interesting reading. Reviews do make a dent on what I read/buy etc - so I can say that yes, they affect my perception but not my curiousity!

I can't say I'm a rabid JK fan - but I did enjoy the HP phenomena and loved how the HP books got children to read and let loose their imaginations!

Yet it's not made me run out to buy her latest book - with or without the reviews. I think what's put me off is the saturation of publicity (kind of like the 50 Shades thing!). I tend to run away from overkill of exposure!

Take care
x

Natalie Aguirre said...

If I really want to read a book, I'll read it no matter what the reviews are. I loved the Harry Potter books, but I don't read adult books anymore because I don't have time. And this doesn't really excite me so I'm not planning on reading it. It'll be interesting to see how well her new book does.

Laura Pauling said...

This kind of small town setting has to be written really well to be interesting, which I have no doubt it is. I have no plans on buying it though. I'm sure I'll read it...eventually. I have no burning desire. I think I want to read it more out of curiosity!

Emy Shin said...

Reviews might affect my decision for an unknown author, but with JK Rowling, they matter very little. That said (and I can't believe I'm typing this) I'm not running out to get THE CASUAL VACANCY just yet because the premise simply doesn't appeal to me. So I might check it out from the library first, just to see. :)

Shelly said...

Usually, I don't let reviews affect me one way or another, but in this case, I've read too may that are similar on this book, and it won't be at the top of my tbr list, either.

Linda Gray said...

I felt bad for Rowling with that review, but Kakutani is known for really tough reviews, so I wasn't surprised she excoriated Rowling for the weaknesses. It was thoughtfully pointed out that much of the disappointment was in comparison to the Potter novels, and that Rowling is a gifted writer (though I don't think it was said in those words). Still, hard to take, and I think any serious Rowling fan will still read the new book.

Connie Keller said...

I'm really curious about the book for the same reasons you are. Whether I read it or not depends more on the reviews I hear from friends I trust. I appreciate professional reviewers, but sometimes their reviews (both good and bad) are strongly skewed from what I like, so I don't take them too seriously.

Karen Lange said...

It would affect me too, but if I liked the author enough I would still read the book. You'll have to let us know if you agreed with the review. No pressure, of course. My TBR pile is pretty tall too.

Happy Monday!

Anne Gallagher said...

Reviews don't affect me either way. However, I do plan on reading this book, maybe 5 years from now when my TBR pile gets under control. I really do want to see what she's done without Harry.

Lindsey Sablowski said...

A review has never really stopped me from reading a book. However, I will admit that my friends who have read Rowling's latest book weren't too pleased. Instead of actually showing her talent as a writer, Rowling's new book was quite vulgar from what I understand. I read several pages, and to be honest I was in shock. I'm not saying she's a terrible author; believe me I love her work as anybody else, but I am a bit disappointed in how much of a dramatic change her writing has had.

LTM said...

It depends on how badly I want to read the book, you know? Like there's this one book that's getting tons of great reviews, so I downloaded a sample to see what all the hype's about.

If I'm on the fence, it'll make me wait.

But I have to add here that I'm glad even JK Rowling gets her 2-star reviews. *shew* :o) <3

Jessica Bell said...

This review makes me want to read it more! I haven't read Harry Potter stuff (have watched the movies though). This book actually sounds like my cup of tea.

Barbara Watson said...

Reviews don't decide whether or not I'll read a book because I like to make up my own mind, but what keeps me away from The Casual Vacancy is that it's for adults. And while I am one, I don't usually enjoy books written for adults.

I do love that Rowling wrote something completely different than where her success came from. That's courageous and shows she writes because writing lives in the deepest parts of who she is.

Chris Allinotte said...

I think that I will eventually read it - I think she's got a great gift for telling a story.

I'm not saying that I expect this new book to be a work of genius, but I do find it funny whenever critics seem to be aggressively trying NOT to like something... a pattern that seems to be emerging here.

So: Underdog - point for "to read"
Overhype - point against
Appreciation of JKR's talent - point "to read"
Inevitable comparison to HP- point against
That it'll be at the library soon enough... Deciding vote for!

Chris Allinotte said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

If a lot of regular reader reviews dip into the three stars or less, then I am hesitant. But from a professional book critique? Doesn't affect me.

Sarah said...

I'm not really interested in reading this book, no matter who says what about it. I loved the HP books dearly, but it's clear this is a different thing entirely, and not a topic or genre to which I'm drawn. I think it's kind of silly for people to be mad at JK because this book is so different from HP. Some of those Amazon reviews are ridiculous, in my opinion.

T. Drecker said...

I rarely agree with critics. But I have to admit, I wasn't planning on reading Rowlings newest novel. The book jacket and cover haven't grabbed me - simply because its not something I usually read/like.

Rebecca said...

If I were a big JK Rowling fan, reviews wouldn't affect my decision at all. But, I've only read the first Harry Potter book (I tend to steer away from books that "everyone" is reading) and I read very little adult fiction. So I will probably never read this book.

Meredith said...

I'm with you--I'll read the book at some point, but it's not high on my list right now, even though I love JK Rowling for writing Harry Potter. :)

Laurel Garver said...

So many reviews tell us a lot about what the reviewer looks for in a book he or she loves, so how helpful that is depends on how much your own taste align with his or hers.

There is a ton of subjectivity to what makes one reader resonate to a work and another not. No book can be all things to all people.

The Casual Vacancy is fairly high on my TBR pile, because if anyone can get us to face the darker side of human nature, especially the stuff we most like to deny (pettiness and gossip), it is JKR!

Jay Noel said...

It's a separate animal from her HP books.

Her new book didn't interest me in the first place. If a book interests me, I do look at reviews, but I don't rely on them 100%. Maybe 50%

spajonas said...

Every time I hear about Kakutani and the bad review I have to laugh. She's kind of infamous for them now, right? So, no, her review doesn't change my mind. I have to admit that I'd rather go to Goodreads for reviews nowadays. I like to hear what the average person thinks. Of course, you really have to read the reviews and not just rely on stars. I cannot even tell you how many people have reviewed the book badly because they thought it was YA or for kids and got an eye-full! Gotta skip past those people ;)

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Thanks for looking the word up for me...I'd never heard of it!

Judy Blume made the switch all right. I don't have it on my read list, but then I sort of got disenchanted with the Potter books (don't hate me Potter fans!) and quit reading.

A Lady's Life said...

I'll probably read it. lol I still havent read the Hunger Games and they are supposed to be good.

mooderino said...

I bet all the media attention (good adn bad) won't hurt. Letting people know the book is out is half the battle, and I think that battle is won.

mood
Moody Writing

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Writers, like actors, can get type-cast. JK was so hot in one genre that there is an inertia to overcome. I would have read the book if the premise had been interesting to me -- it isn't. So I don't plan on reading it.

J.L. Campbell said...

I guess a highly critical review from someone famous would carry a sting, but it's part of a day's work for a writer. Not everybody will enjoy the story we've told.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I have to wonder if the reviewer is piling a little extra snark on Rowling because of her incredible success story. If I was interested in reading this story, this review wouldn't stop me. But it's not on my TBR pile just because it doesn't appeal to me.

LD Masterson said...

This one wasn't high on my list before the review so I can't say it made a difference, but in general I'm more likely to be swayed by the recommendations of friends than professional reviewers

Jai Joshi said...

I reserve all judgement until I've read the book myself. I don't let other reviews sway me.

Jai

Denise Covey said...

Reviews, good or bad, of books or films will never affect me too much. As for Rowling's book, of course we'll all read it, regardless of reviews. Can't wait.

bethchristopher.com said...

It's on my TBR list, too. I'm a loyal fan. Rowling is so huge, that whatever she writes -- brilliant or not -- haters are going to try to knock her down a peg. Sometimes bad reviews of good authors make me want to read the book even more.

Cheree Smith said...

I read reviews, but I don't let them make up my mind about a book. Books are like anything else, a matter of opinion and one person can hate the book while someone else absolutely love it.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Okay, after reading the reviews on Amazon, I have to come back and say I've changed my mind. I might have to try this book out -- even though the subject matter doesn't interest me and even though it's not my preferred genre -- precisely because the reviews ARE SO MEAN.

I have never seen such a batch of mean-spirited reviews in my life. And not only that, people are voting the negative reviews helpful and the positive ones unhelpful.

What a sad state of affairs. I can only hope that Rowling's skin is thicker than mine, because no matter how good or lackluster the book might be, these reviews are meant to be personally insulting. And that makes me sad.

Susan Fields said...

I don't pay much attention to reviews, because I usually don't agree with them anyway. And thanks for the definition - I didn't know that word either.

Rachna Chhabria said...

I really don't care much for reviews. If I want to read a book I just go ahead and read the book. Word of mouth reviews work better for me.

nutschell said...

I love Rowling and I applaud her for trying on a genre that's completely different from what brought her success. definitely curious about reading her new book, despite the bad reviews.

Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

Bathwater said...

I would be surprised if she could not write a readable book. Perhaps it is not the same bestseller as her others though.

Southpaw said...

The only time reviews affect my decisions is when it is from a reviewer I personally follow because we tend to like/dislike the same books.

Romance Book Haven said...

Well, mixed reviews are good. You can't satisfy everyone. But that said, JK's HP was big and I feel bad for JK.

Nas

Gina Gao said...

To be honest I don't care much for reviews. If it sounds good to me, I will just go ahead and read it.

www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

Walt Mussell said...

A bad review may stop me from reading an author I'm unfamiliar with, but not an author whose work I've enjoyed previously. However, I will not be reading this as my TBR pile is too high.

It is notable that the billion dollars J.K. Rowling has can offset a lot of bad reviews. :-)

Raquel Byrnes said...

Ouch! No matter your past success, a book is still your baby and that has to hurt.

vbtremper said...

I plan to read it...eventually. But, like you, I have a list of books ahead of it to read first. I'm only swayed by negative reviews if they touch on things that will bother me (like poor writing, grammar, and punctuation).

-Vicki

Joshua said...

I've heard similar reviews from friends that have given it a read. I'll still pick it up, but...

 
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