Sometimes Disappointment comes in Threes

July 27, 2014 at 12:19 pm Leave a comment

The beloved author is quite the phenomenon. They publish a book, and there they are on NPR, in Huffington Post, in the New York times, suddenly selling books hand over fist.  But along with that belovedness comes expectations (*cue music* She’s got high hopes, she’s got high hopes).  If the author gets all this attention shouldn’t the writing be at the very least good? Enter three books, all by the beloved, all unfortunately a bit of a disappointment.

1. “The Circle” by Dave Eggers –  Mae is that young twenty-something who lands a job with the premiere West coast social media company, the Circle.  Very quickly she turns over all  of her personal information (medical history, financial information) and becomes one of fold.  The eventual result is that privacy becomes a thing of the past. Mae becomes completely transparent with her life videoed all the time, sent to a live stream for the world to see.  The Circle begins working on videoing everything in the world with tiny, unnoticeable cameras. Want to know if the surf is up? Check the live video feed. The Circle begins a project to imbed GPS locators in children so that no one will ever wonder where they kids are. But then when they become adults what happens to their privacy with these GPS locators? Eggars commentary is interesting and it is the new if a tree falls in the woods – if something happens in your life and it is not on the internet for everyone to see, does it matter? This novel was interesting, but it takes the long way to bring it home.  A lot of it could have been edited down and still the point would have been made. Do I really need to read about every screen and exchange Mae has on her computer, I am going with no.  Eggers may be above the editing fray (does that happen?) but I would have loved this book a lot more if it were more succinct.

General-Tom-Thumb2. “The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb” by Melanie Benjamin – Much to my surprise, there really was a Tom Thumb (his real name was Charles Stratton).  He was a tiny man who traveled the world in the mid-1800s as one of the spectacles for Mr. Phineas Barnum’s traveling curiosities.  This story is told by Vinnie also a small person who, as the title indicates, eventually marries Tom Thumb. The two travel the world and have a wedding covered by all of the major newspapers.  They meet the British royals and hobnob with high society. It is both an amazing story and a heartbreaking one.  Always having people gawking and staring at you because you are different is a harsh reality.  The fact that they were able to make money off of their “oddity” is both savvy and tragic.  Benjamin highlights all of this very well and truly the topic is fascinating. Where Benjamin failed for me is that Vinnie, this woman who defies all odds and becomes this rich and famous woman, was just not likable.  I found her a bit trite, conceited and condescending.  For that reason alone I really cared a whole lot less about what happened to her.  It is still worth a read if the topic interests you but then you might as well grab some nonfiction on the topic – because there is plenty out there.

3. “Still Life with Bread Crumbs” by Anna Quindlen – This book is mentioned everywhere you turn and I caved. There it was on the library shelf so I grabbed it.  Out of the three on this list, it is certainly the best and I am hesitant to include it here. But it was a bit disappointing. Rebecca Winter is a divorcee in her early 60s. In her younger years she was an extremely successful photographer. Finding her career in a slump and her finances in even more of a slump, Rebecca rents out her Manhattan apartment and rents a small home in a small town in upstate New York.  The town has all of the quaint charm of a small country town and all of the quirkiness as well.  Predictably, Rebecca finds everything she needs to make a fresh start (and the music swells).  This novel has no surprises and it has several cliches. What everyone loves about the novel is that Rebecca is not the beautiful twenty-something, she is 60 and has lived.  Why writing such a character is a novelty is beyond me, because a character like Rebecca has so many interesting dimensions because she is not a clean slate. She has experience and stories.  But I don’t think that is enough to make this book as amazing as claimed.  It is really still a lovely summer read.

 

I am sure even with these minimal disappointments, I will likely be suckered in next time these authors hit the book reviews. But here’s hoping the acclaim is a bit more deserving next time – and honestly, in all fairness everyone gets a one off.   A little disappointment never killed anyone.

 

 

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Entry filed under: July 2014 reads. Tags: , , , , , , .

The truth is rarely pure and never simple* – Schroder by Amity Gaige Slavery of the mind and body- “The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd

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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.

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