"Papua, New Guinea"...and other stuff

No one ever argues much with positive reviews, but it seems everybody has something to say about negative ones. Some tell us if we have nothing nice to say we should say nothing at all, good advice in a social situation but not so much when you're attempting to evaluate something. Every review would be positive, not to mention boring and colossally unhelpful. Others say it's ok to criticize the plot, characters, dialogue, etc. as long as we don't say anything negative about the author. It is, from what I've been reading, considered rude to an author to say her book is badly written, but isn't it rude to publish bad writing and charge money for it?

A while back I read the thoughts of some authors who were talking about what the reader "owes" the author. The consensus was that a reader is free to dislike a particular aspect of a book providing he gives clear, literary reasons for his criticism.  Otherwise, they said, the reader should keep quiet. Maybe I'm in a bad mood but I have a strong urge to argue this point. I think if I pay for a book, at that point it's the author who owes me -  either a good story or good information, depending on what I've paid for. I don't think I owe him a favorable review or a "literary" explanation for an unfavorable one. I do think giving reasons for our criticism makes for more interesting reviews and can open up good discussion, but I don't think I owe it to anyone.   

All this stuff I've been reading lately has left me feeling a bit disenchanted with blogging, Goodreads and all the rest, and I don't really know what approach to take in this new year. I find myself second guessing everything I say about a book so as not to offend anyone. I'm not being sarcastic when I say that. I honestly don't have any desire to be offensive or to hurt anyone's feelings. On the other hand, I don't see any point in writing a blog that stamps "Yes!" on every book. Would anything be more boring?

So here I am and I don't know where I want to go from here. Is this just a slump or has Ordinary Reader run its course? Should I make changes? I'm doing a couple of things differently. I'm not as anal about posting on every single book I read anymore, I've found nothing at all happens if I skip one now and then, and I let myself get away with shorter posts now and don't waste time trying to think of things to say just to make them an acceptable length. Isn't it sad that I used to?

Blah, blah, blah. I'm tired of listening to myself talk about this as, I'm sure, are you. For now I'll take it one book at a time and see what happens.

The actual subject of this post is "Papua, New Guinea", the second novel in the "Notes From A Spinning Planet" series by Melody Carlson. Carlson is not my up of tea but my Book Club chose this, so I read it. To be honest, I didn't like it much. I did enjoy learning a bit about life in New Guinea; some history or geography in a book goes a long way toward making it interesting for me. What I didn't like about the book was it's formulaic Christianity, the making a big deal out of the obvious, the cliches, the attempt to disguise preaching as dialogue and the unrealistic view of life as a journalist. It's too sweet and too pretty, and the author tells us too much, not crediting the reader with any grasp of the obvious at all. I realize there's not much positive in that, but there you have it. Hope no one is offended... 


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