Maybe you’ve been there: a friend of yours publishes a novel and gives you a copy. You’re thrilled for your friend, of course, but you also have a creeping sense of unease. Will the book be any good? Will you like it? Cripes, your too-read pile is big enough already…how will you fit it in?
Any or all of these thoughts are enough to make any of us feel like a bad friend, but maybe we don’t have to. Read Brad Leithauser’s thoughts on the subject over at The New Yorker:
Let’s say a poet friend gives you her new collection. In all likelihood, you’ll enjoy some of the poems and won’t enjoy others, but the same would be true (only on a more elevated scale) if you opened a volume by W. H. Auden or Elizabeth Bishop or James Merrill. The novel is different: if you’re unhappy with a part, you’re likely to be unhappy with the whole. It’s the all-or-nothing nature of novels that makes the reading of them so risky—and potentially so rewarding.
You can read the full article, free, here.