Sunday, 29 December 2013

170/111 - Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

This is a review I actually forgot to write earlier this year, as I. Never finished the book. I remember receiving a proof copy of Swamplandia! when I interned at Vintage books, so I've had it for almost three years now, but the copy wasn't very well bound so I eventually bought an actual copy of the book. I thought that it was the binding of the proof copy which was making it difficult for me to read the book, so I expected to get along a lot better with the 'real' copy of the book, however on reflection, I suspect it may have been the content rather than the binding of the book.

This makes me want to talk about a couple of things: first of all, am I sometimes justified in judging a book by its cover or overall physical quality; and secondly, what do I do when I really want to like a book, and everything points towards the probability that I will like it, but that I just don't like it much?

The first one is a little easier to dissect for me, as I do see books as lovely objects, and so a nice-looking book for me makes the content seem more desirable, which is perhaps a little shallow but with all the books I read, I really want to enjoy the entire experience, and the aesthetics of the book also contribute to this. I haven't ever really given much thought to book design or book production, although there are lots of publishing houses out there that do, and as a consumer of books I benefit from the care and attention they put into the designs of their books. Because this is important to me, I dislike buying books that feel cheap, have overly shiny books covers, cheap or thin paper with a tiny typeface which makes it a struggle to read, etc etc. so when I first didn't really get on with Swamplandia! I thought it might be because of the quality of the proof copy over the finished copy. The finished copy was much better in terms of quality of paper, typeface, cover design, but I still found it really difficult to connect with the story.

Which I guess brings me onto my next point - I really wanted to like this book. The premise sounded fantastic, and Karen Russell is a young female author whose work I generally tend to enjoy, so everything suggested that I would like this. I've experienced something similar with a couple of other books this year too, that I felt slightly disappointed by even though by all accounts they should have been right up my street. The ones I didn't finish I haven't written about here, because I think like with Swamplandia!, I fully intend to give them another go, perhaps when I'm in a different frame of mind. When I first started this blog I had decided that my methods of selection for what I would read next would be totally random depending on what I picked out, however I've moved away from that, and I'm not sure it's really the best way to select reading material. I love the idea of randomly selecting what I'm going to be reading and having my eyes opened, or getting some unexpected perspective on something, but in reality it doesn't really work for me.

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