Apr 20, 2021, 06:27AM

A Fiction Reviewer Writes Aggravated Blurbs Then Confesses

So many hopes and dreams packed into the words of all these writers, but so many words to read.

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1. "An intriguing mix of clichés and tired tropes."

2. "An exhausting and chaotic read."

3. "The first half is engaging."

4. "Highly forgettable."

5. "This book is worth reading if you have no electricity, no other people around, and no other reading material."

6. "A masterclass in boredom."

7. "A novel entirely lacking in originality, character development and plot. At least the dialogue is terrible."

8. "Exceedingly ordinary and with a dull thud of an ending."

9. "Palatable reading in small doses."

10. "I've been reviewing books for decades. This career has probably been a mistake. I'm 63 years old. I'm sitting here in a cramped apartment filled with dusty books. I eat the same breakfast every day. A fried egg. One link of pork sausage and two pieces of whole wheat toast. I get takeout Chinese food on Wednesdays and I roast a chicken on Saturdays. I listen to baseball games on the radio and old folk, 1960s French pop, and all kinds of jazz records on my turntable.

My nephew Philip visits me one Sunday a month. He brings me pastries. He’s also depressed and taking too much medication. I hope he doesn't turn into me. This last year has made me especially lonely. Eating a croissant with Phillip over Zoom is tragic and not at all social. I should've gotten married when I still had my hair, could still run a mile or two without a problem, and had what Iggy Pop called a lust for life.

I fell in love in grad school. Her name was Rebecca. She married a friend of mine, Patrick, who became a professor. They had three little girls. Patrick died of pancreatic cancer a few years ago. I went to the funeral. I saw Rebecca, now with silver streaks in her long black hair. The girls are in their 20s and doing interesting things. One is a musician who wrote a devastatingly beautiful song in honor of her dad. I hadn't cried for years, but I was moved that day when she sang the song. Tears became streams down my cheeks. I walked away from the group and collected myself. I'm beyond tired of reviewing books, but what else is there for me to do?

So many hopes and dreams packed into the words of all these writers, but so many words to read. It’s homework. Very little pleasure left in life. Or in my life. Maybe I just need to travel again. I've gotten both of my shots now. Maybe I'll drive out to Iowa and see Rebecca. Think I'll call her now."


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