Last summer I was traveling to promote The Lotus Eaters, spending lots of spare time in bookstores, and inevitably I ended up reading all the hot new titles. In a way, that was fun because I could compare my own impressions with new reviews coming out. A few deserved the hype — I loved Jennifer Egan's Visit from the Goon Squad. Others, well, let's say it was a case of the emperor having no clothes.
This summer I'm returning to the classics. I've been daunted by Moby Dick for a long time so that was first up. I'm halfway through so I'll just say that if you forget that the book is a CLASSIC, if for example it had come out last year, reviewers would probably say that it was wildly ambitious, original, and experimental. They would also say that the plot needs to be pumped up, that the book needs to lose those chapters on the history of whaling because they drag. It is not a perfect novel, but those imperfections give the book breathing space, mystery — a huge heart. As modern writers and readers, have we become more concerned with perfection than heart?