Wednesday, July 16, 2014

ReView of JUDGING A BOOK BY ITS LOVER by Lauren Leto

"For the Love of Print," "Fan Fictions," "How to Fake it," "Snark Bait," are just a few of the chapter titles from this book.  Initially, when I chose to read this book, I thought I was in for a real ride - something unique, out-of-the box, something that was going to make me laugh and at the same time maybe show me a different perspective on books.  The book fell short for me in some areas, but it did give some new perspectives.

"Want to impress the hot stranger at the bar who asks for your take onInfinite Jest? Dying to shut up the blowhard in front of you who’s pontificating on Cormac McCarthy’s “recurring road narratives”? Having difficulty keeping Francine Prose and Annie Proulx straight?

For all those overwhelmed readers who need to get a firm grip on the relentless onslaught of must-read books to stay on top of the inevitable conversations that swirl around them, Lauren Leto’s Judging a Book by Its Lover is manna from literary heaven! A hilarious send-up of—and inspired homage to—the passionate and peculiar world of book culture, this guide to literary debate leaves no reader or author unscathed, at once adoring and skewering everyone from Jonathan Franzen to Ayn Rand to Dostoyevsky and the people who read them." GoodReads

I love that Lauren Leto began the book with the story of her childhood experience when her teacher complimented her on being such a great reader that all she did thereafter as a result was read.  Her parents were painfully upset with the teacher, can you believe it?  I wonder if Lauren Leto is truthful in her story.  How can a parent be upset that their child is reading all the time? Go ahead, give your thoughts on that, I wonder how many of you are understanding with that concept :).

I began to understand the worry her parents had when I read the following confession from Lauren Leto: "I'm an anxious person.  My guess (gathered from an unscientific survey of fellow readers and the uneducated opinions of my family) is that this may be the result of years of overexposure to fictional worlds and underexposure to real-world activities such as recess, school dances, and cocktail parties.  I'm not very comfortable in settings and situations most people take for granted as part of the comings and goings of everyday life." How many of readers and writers can relate to such an anxious experience of life?  I know I have had my moments, whether it's a result of my exposure to so many fictional worlds or not may be up for discussion.  Maybe her parents had a legitimate reason to worry for her being with her head in books all the time? Maybe.  Maybe not. Sometimes the risk is more than worth it.

I loved the part in the book when she talks about how the best books "expand and challenge the mind," and how the "easy books don't have images that come to you suddenly when you're alone on a street corner and a passing man's face suddenly strikes you, like the line in Jeffrey Eugenide's Middlesex, as 'rumpled like an unmade bed.'"  I have had many moments when at random a line in a great book will strike me just as she mentions here.  This is one of the most beautiful marks a book can leave on you.  

Suffice it to say the book starts out fairly strong.  It lost me in the middle at some point, and I found myself flipping through a chuncky portion. Towards the end of the book, though, there are a few chapters worthh slowing down for, particularly "Fan Letters," "Little-Known Treasures," and "What Your Child Will Grow Up to Be if You Read Them.."  All fairly awkward, funny, and absolutely uniquely opinionated.  When I am reading a book on books, it's almost a given that I expect an opinionated writer, and so I enjoyed her writing very much in these chapters.  

As for the chapter on "How to Fake it?"  Booksellers, this is your chapter.  If you want a cheat-sheet of what to briefly know about books and how to mention small bits about each book to your customers, go ahead and just read this chapter if the rest of the book does not interest you. 

Lastly, I want to say that I was so happy about how the book ends.  The last paragraph of the book is a great way to summarize the thoughts and ideas of books, in general.  

"The greatest arguments for the oneness of humanity is the recognition that we are all emotional beings, subject to the fantasies of a story.  We talk about this event we went through alone because it connects us together.  You're never more human than when you realize a sentence has the power to push and pull the emotions of millions."

It was alright, I liked it

Genre: Non-Fiction
Format: Paperback
Length: 269 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial
First Published: 2012

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