Knowing how much I love books, a fabulous woman recently offered me her back issues of the London Review of Books. I was so excited! I sat down with them and got comfortable.
The first article I read was about a biography of Lucian Freud, one of my favorite painters. I only made it half way through before I stopped: It was telling me what a jerk he was. I didn’t want to spoil my opinion of his works by facts not relevant to his painting. Next!
The second article was about a novel, Mary Barton, which focuses on the Hungry 40s. Well, the article was supposed to be about the book, but instead it was all about the writer’s experience working at a food bank with one paragraph tacked on at the end that only obliquely referenced the book.
I found it incredibly annoying that a magazine dedicated to reviewing books only mentioned them in passing. Then I realized it is exactly what I do in this blog, too! Oh no! All my book mentions are in passing or related to where I am in my life right now. The only thing that made me feel better was the realization that at least my blog states up front that it is all about me.
I think my disappointment is because my expectations were not met. When I read New York Times book reviews, they review the books. Silly me for expecting the same from London Review of Books. Then again, it isn’t unprecedented even in my own experience: The Smithsonian magazine often discusses two books on the same topic, not letting on what is background information or which book has the emphasis presented.
I do have a history of having a hard time changing expectations. While I am so much better, those initial projections can pose a barrier for enjoying the actual circumstance. I recently encountered this when breaking my rule about watching a movie before reading the book.
I so loved Cloud Atlas, the first book I read in 2013, that I wanted to see the movie.
Intellectually I knew they’d have to take liberties to convert an 800 page book into a three hour movie, but emotionally I was still attached to the story between the covers. I was so impressed with myself, though, because after about 20 minutes I was able to appreciate the choices the director made and the added continuity he added to link the separate story lines together.
Oh no! I did it again! My discussing London Review of Books led to a movie review!
Am I crazy in thinking that something that claims to be a book review should actually review books? or When was the last time you were able to overcome your initial expectations?
4 thoughts on “Un-Met Expectations”
Great ideas, On the way to doing one thing we end up doing something else and often do not recognize it. I still think a book review should do just that, but if what I read pleases me anyway, I can forgive the lack of a review..
Thanks for stopping by, Mary Ann!
I love how my stream of consciousness can bring me to new and unexpected places. I know sometimes, though, it might be a bumpy ride for the reader. These explorations can startle me with new insight.
You are so right: if the detour the “reviewer” is taking is entertaining or thought provoking, not meeting initial expectations can be more than forgiven.
That’s kind of crazy that a book review magazine would only obliquely reference the books. I would expect them to talk more about the books instead of the people or circumstances that lead to the book. Although I don’t read many reviews on books, I do occasionally read the book review section of The Economist. They do a pretty good job about talking about the ideas in the book and whether it’s worth buying or not. So if you’re looking for a good book reviewer, you may want to give them a try.
Thanks for that recommendation, Steve! I will definitely check them out.