Thursday, July 16, 2015

Cherry Picking

Every now and then I read a book that I would label a complete turkey. When I use the expression "turkey", I am not implying something meaty and delicious covered in gravy. I am talking about a book that just was not very well written. Weak dialog, uninspired prose, contrived, and built around protagonists that are either cardboard cut-outs or give me absolutely no reason to care about them in any way. Now you may look at my educational pedigree and dismiss my opinions as the ravings of some erudite pedantic scholar, who won't know a good story if it bit him in his medulla oblongata. Of course I would be deeply wounded by your internal dialog. However, I would bet that if you looked over my reading list and associated reviews, you might find my tastes are not too dissimilar from your average Joe or Joessa on the street.

That said, I am always on the lookout for something to add to my reading list. Sometimes I get a recommendation from a friend or I stumble upon an online review. I have even dived into a book based on ratings on sites like Amazon. However, after a few recent turkeys that had 5-star reviews, I began to get a bit suspect. A recent turkey that I grumbled and groaned through had a book jacket plastered with reviews that raved:
  • A stunner. (Booklist)
  • The author is ingenious. (Washington Post)
  • His most compelling to date. (Publisher's Weekly)
  • Great style and careful plotting. (New York Times)
  • Makes the reader sit back and gasp. (Denver Post)
It then occurred to me that the publishers must have cherry picked the original review for positive sounding blurbs that most surely read something like:
  • A stunner. How could this tripe sandwich on a hardroll ever get published?
  • The author is ingenious. He has somehow hoodwinked the public with his substandard skills, laughing all the way to the bank.
  • His most compelling to date, which isn't saying much given how low he has set the bar.
  • Great style and careful plotting are completely absent in this crispy fried turd.
  • Makes the reader sit back and gasp, "Why did I waste $14.99 of my hard-earned jackpot wad on this literary hemorrhoid?"