CNN hosted a debate last night for the candidates in the Democratic primary; knowing full well that such an event could produce some fodder for this week's outrage, I opted out of viewing the debate to attend a book reading from one of my top five favorite living authors, Khaled Hosseini.
Luckily for me, there was also a book signing to go with this event, and I had such visions of what I would say to Dr. Hosseini as he added his own pen marks to my already marked copy of The Kite Runner. Earlier in the day, I read the New York Times Book Review of his new novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and walked away from it seething with outrage. I found the reviewer, Lisa See, to be way off the mark. At any rate, during the Q & A session, I found my mind wandering a bit as I considered my words to the author as I approached him to sign my book. I wanted to tell him that I thought the review was poor and probably indicative of a reader that did not a). finish the novel or b). read the text closely and carefully. I wanted to point to a few of her criticisms and assure him that she was, indeed, on the crack pipe if she really believed what she was writing. I wanted to tell him how much his first novel has impacted my high school and community college students.
For the first time in my life, I was first in line for something. As I stood there clutching my copy of The Kite Runner, I knew I'd say none of these things. I'd cave in the face of this author I admire, just like I did when I met Elie Wiesel and Frank McCourt. Of course, I did cave; I shyly mumbled something about my Three Rivers students loving the book and promptly moved aside so the second person in line could get her book signed.
Faced with the reality that my outrage of the week went unspoken, I did some surfing on-line today and discovered that I could share these things with Dr. Hosseini on his blog. Or, I could bring them over to 1% more conscious and express my shock over the following.
Yesterday was a day of marked irreverence for certain contributers to the New York Times. First, Aimee Mann wrote a piece in the Op-Ed section about the 40th anniversary of the Sgt. Pepper album. She speaks of her 8 year old Beatle loving self with nostalgia then goes on to basically say that she has outgrown the Beatles and evolved into the lyrical style of Fiona Apple. Then I read this review written by Lisa See. Similar to Hosseini, she is also a best-selling author. Unlike Hosseini, her novel does not suggest that she is a master of her craft, an author of an instant classic. She nit-picks away at a few details and makes sweeping and inaccurate judgments of the text. In certain places, she's petty; in others, she's just dead wrong. I would never suggest that she (or anyone else for that matter) has an obligation to love this book; however, I do think that certain works (and musicians) have indisputable merit.
When people attempt to find fault with these masters of culture simply for the sake of finding fault, I question their motives. The sequel to Lisa See's best selling novel is due out this month. Perhaps she fears the competition; perhaps she is intimidated by a man that writes with the female point of view so convincingly. Or maybe, just maybe, she is the student that only read the Cliff Notes in high school and reading and reviewing A Thousand Splendid Suns was beyond the scope of her ability.