Book reviewers I find fascinating usually inject a lot of themselves and philosophical meanderings into their writing. I’ve read some reviews where I’ve loved the review more than the book. Go figure.
Recently I read James Wood’s review of Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies; the book I loved and is a favorite, although I found his review of Mathilde’s perspective to be more than a little skewed by the male gaze, which is not surprising considering. (James Wood the author is not to be confused with James Woods the actor with the mediocre skills and foul ideologies.)
I find these melodramatic accelerations—“Like that, all at once, Mathilde grew up over Aurélie’s skin”—humanly untruthful (is that how it happens, like that, all at once?) and thus a kind of vandalism of the novel form. But tastes in unreality differ.
I flinched at the term vandalism, but this passage reflected more his reading tastes than Mathilde’s story and that’s what I like about his reviews. He tends to break the novel down and poke at the overall structure even if, in this instance, his personal conclusions of Mathilde’s tragic story of “melodramatic accelerations” are blunted. And yes, James, for lots of women, growing up does happen like that: “all at once”. *insert dramatic eye roll emoji*
In the future, I’ll pay more attention to the reviewers I like (especially women) and share them with you. If you have any favorite women or LGBTQ reviewers, hit up the comments and I’ll check them out.