‘Please feel free to loathe it’ is what it says in the accompanying letter, and that is such a relief.
Now, I don’t expect to loathe Donna Moore’s Old Dogs, when I eventually get to it, having courageously worked my way through mountains of books. And maybe Donna doesn’t expect me to either, but for an amusing writer she is very modest about her own work. Even her stationery looks good; a retro looking picture of a lady and the caption ‘she kind of enjoyed working for an idiot’. You have to love it.
Press releases gush about whatever they are there to gush about, and they are generally written by someone other than the gushee, so that’s OK. PR people are experts at pressing the right buttons to make me feel compelled to read ‘their’ book. But if I don’t like the book, I can just leave it.
Sometimes people contact me out of the blue to offer their books for review, and the offers can be anything from quite suitable for me to the downright wrong. Some writers are modest while doing this, whereas many are very full of themselves and the excellence of their books, which tends to bring out my worst Swedishness along the lines of ‘thou shalt not believe you are anything special’.
It’s easiest when books are either already on my shelves or I have bought them fair and square (and anonymously) or if sent out with hundreds of others by the publishers. Then the author has no idea that I may do a review of it, and I don’t have to skulk if I hate something.
I’m forever dreading the scenario where someone knows full well I have their book and I end up not liking it. This has not happened yet. Can I be so lucky that I will never be acquainted with the author of a really bad book? I know more writers who may join the ‘feel free to loathe’ club, but you don’t mean it. Deep down.
Keren David’s When I Was Joe made me nervous, before I read it. The relief I felt when it turned out to be wonderful was such a, well, relief. The same goes for Candy Gourlay’s marvellous Tall Story, which isn’t out yet.
But just think, if I had avoided these books on the off chance that I’d not like them. That would have been stupid.
I’m sure Old Dogs will be just fine, even if I’m not into pets that much. Oh, it’s not about dogs? Oh well.