As I was writing my review for Etta and Otto and Russell and James last week, I felt, for the first time in a long time, that it was a struggle. Don’t get me wrong – I love reviewing books, but for that one in particular, I was flailing to articulate how I was affected (positively) by its tone and imagery without turning the whole post into a huge synopsis that lacked depth.
My struggles had me thinking about how simultaneously wonderful the process of writing a difficult review is. Think about it: had I not committed myself to writing this review, I probably would have finished the book and thought, “Hmm, I really loved that book” without giving it a second thought. But writing about the book pushed me to dig deeper and analyze why exactly I felt so strongly: was it the writing? The characters? The comparison between leaving home and being left behind? (Yes yes and yes.) Now that I’ve finished my review, I feel thankful that the process helped me pinpoint what exactly made me fall in love with the text.
My recent review of Miranda July’s The First Bad Man is another example where writing/talking about the book helped me analyze the story. I wasn’t initially enamored with the plot and I’ll admit that I did think it was quite an odd book – maybe even too odd for me. But, after many days of thinking about what I would write about it, I came across the Gillian Flynn quote I cited in my review that was the lightbulb I needed. Suddenly, instead of just being a strange book with an oddball character, The First Bad Man became a book that I would encourage people to read. I feel strongly that different and unique women should be represented in literature (and all forms of art), and I’m happy that my review process guided me to this conclusion.
I’m not sure if this Monday Musing makes sense to anyone but me, but I wonder if you’ve ever felt the same way? Has talking or writing about a book helped cement your feelings towards it? Do you think reviewing and discussing books adds value to the reading process and to the book itself?