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Cover of "Freedom: A Novel"

Cover of Freedom: A Novel

 

In Britain, the books readers either love or hate are called “Marmite” books. (In Australia we’d call them Vegemite books.)    

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas is probably a fair example.    

As was The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. It spent 29 weeks on The New York Times best-seller list, and won the 2001 National Book Award but some readers hated every line of its creakingly earnest purpose: a solid realist social novel about now.    

By comparison, Time has hailed Franzen’s new novel Freedom, a masterpiece.    

Then B. R. Myers in The Atlantic, called it “a 576-page monument to insignificance” whose “language vies with content to be as ugly as possible”.    

Such a trashing had The Huffington Post trawling for other vicious reviews, including Susan Cohen’s dismissal of Stieg Larsson‘s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. (“This is easily one of the worst books I’ve ever read. And bear in mind that I’ve read John Grisham“), and this from Leon Wolf on Meghan McCain: “It is impossible to read Dirty, Sexy Politics and come away with the impression that you have read anything other than the completely unedited ramblings of an idiot.” Whew.    

Such acid opinions leave one craving subtlety.    

I like Benjamin Disraeli‘s reply to Mark Twain who had sent him his novel:    

“Thank you for your book. I shall waste no time in reading it.”    

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