Tuesday, August 16, 2005

I'm Also Fairly Certain that "One-Dimensional Storyline" is a Malapropism

From Amazon.co.uk's review of Rachel Cusk's In the Fold (longlisted for this year's Booker award, to the surprise and consternation of Jessa Crispin and Chris Loxley), by Carey Green:
While Cusk will never appeal to those looking for one dimensional storylines with cardboard characters, this beautifully, sparingly written gem is sure to delight the discerning reader.
Alright, show of hands. How many of you, when selecting your next read, actually think "Hmm, I'd really like something with cardboard characters. The less believable, the better. And it would be so cool if this book had a one-dimensional storyline--I'm so tired of complex, interesting plots"?

Clearly, Green was trying to find a polite way of saying that In the Fold is light on plot, but overshot the mark and ended up with something that, at first glance, seems simply funny, and at a second rather insulting. If you like your books with a bit of plot, the review seems to say, you're clearly reading for the wrong reasons.

Matthew Cheney (and several others) have been discussing the use of the term 'self-indulgent' in literary reviews, with the consensus being that, if nothing else, it's a hallmark of lazy and uninformative reviewing. I've been going on about 'escapism', and how little it actually means. Green demonstrates with flair that avoiding certain catch-phrases is no guarantee that you won't come across as the worst sort of snob.

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