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Okay, I am going to start with Jane Austen, but this post isn't about her, I promise. The original title of P&P was First Impressions. Not nearly as much punch! But the premise of the story was that two people meet, don't make good first impressions on each other, and then take quite some time to finally overcome their own character flaw and appreciate each other.

Some people are that way about books, prejudging them from their covers or genre labels. I happened to notice a post on Twitter referring to a book review on The Daily Beast. The review was for a book called The Neighbor by Lisa Gardner.

Reviewer David J. Montgomery liked the book a lot, but he also focused much of his attention on how Gardener got her start as a romance novelist. In fact, after a while I kind of felt he was contradicting himself. Take this penultimate paragraph from his review:

 The Neighbor is a hard-edged and gritty story, so much so that it’s hard to imagine such a book coming from a woman who, not so long ago, wrote novels with titles like The One Worth Waiting For and Marrying Mike … Again for an imprint called Silhouette Intimate Moments. In addition to The Neighbor’s sex-offender neighbor, there is suspicion of child abuse, child pornography, and serious exploitation of a minor—along with the more run-of-the-mill murder and mayhem.

Montgomery is saying, in effect, that it's difficult to accept that the person who wrote frothy romance could also write a story with grim events and truly evil characters. Now look at his last paragraph:

Which is why, were there justice in the world, writers like Gardner would neutralize the highbrow literati’s tendency to sneer at romance novels as if they were store-brand paté. There are good books and bad books of every kind, regardless of which label is slapped on them. As Gardner proves with The Neighbor, good writers can come from anywhere, including the world of Fabio paperbacks. You can’t judge a book by its cover—and you can’t judge an author either. Gardner writes about the menace that lurks beneath the surface of her villains with an intensity that would make Ted Bundy blush.

Aside from the interesting imagery (store brand paté and a blushing serial killer), it's almost like he's berating himself for the previous paragraph! But that last paragraph does make the point that genre is a marketing label and not an assessment of quality. After all, a good actor can play villains as well as nice guys. It's called talent.

If you're wondering why the pic above is of my dog, it's partly because people tend to judge dogs based on their breeds, and partly because the cat has been getting more exposure and I'm trying to be fair. So, have you got any instances were you read a book expecting one thing, based on the author or the genre, and got another?





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( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
bogwitch64
Mar. 26th, 2010 03:12 am (UTC)
A recent read, actually--Ruth Long's (rflong) Scroll Thief. It's published by Samhain Publishing, well-known for its romance titles. The cover gives a romance-y feel. This was NOT a romance. In fact--the romance was downplayed bigtime. It was gritty and raw and really great--totally NOT what I was expecting. But I loved it.
karen_w_newton
Mar. 26th, 2010 03:29 am (UTC)
In some ways, the unexpected reward is the best reward. It's like when you're noble-minded and let your kids pick their chocolates from the box first and the only one left looks like plain chocolate but it turns out to have caramel and almonds inside.
bogwitch64
Mar. 26th, 2010 04:00 am (UTC)
You let your kids choose first?? ;)
karen_w_newton
Mar. 26th, 2010 12:04 pm (UTC)
Only when I am feeling noble. They're not home much, anymore, so I get sentimental when they are.
bogwitch64
Mar. 26th, 2010 01:02 pm (UTC)
Awwww...you're a good mama.
mtlawson
Mar. 26th, 2010 11:42 am (UTC)
If you're wondering why the pic above is of my dog, it's partly because people tend to judge dogs based on their breeds, and partly because the cat has been getting more exposure and I'm trying to be fair.

The American Staffordshire Terrier. I rest my case.

So, have you got any instances were you read a book expecting one thing, based on the author or the genre, and got another?

Until you got to know his writing, Philip K. Dick was a shock to the system.
karen_w_newton
Mar. 26th, 2010 11:59 am (UTC)
>The American Staffordshire Terrier. I rest my case.

aka, the pit bull? I agree. Although I think that's more from people deliberately making their dogs mean in an effort to make themselves feel tougher. I have known some really sweet-natured "pit bulls." My son's former roommate had one who was really dangerous-- IF you were made of sugar. He would lick a total stranger's hand and not stop until they moved away from him. He was also afraid of a lot of things.

You know, I have never read anything by Dick. My only exposure is the movies.



Edited at 2010-03-26 12:05 pm (UTC)
karen_w_newton
Mar. 26th, 2010 12:14 pm (UTC)
Oh, and I just watched this video, and thought you would enjoy it, too:

http://maryrobinette.livejournal.com/828769.html
mtlawson
Mar. 26th, 2010 11:16 pm (UTC)
That is absolutely fantastic!

I've already showed it to several people today, and I'm going to make a point of blogging this later.

Thanks, Karen!
karen_w_newton
Mar. 27th, 2010 01:28 am (UTC)
I read in another post that Winston was "sentenced" to obedience school
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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