Surely every writer aspires for recognition and praise? From award nominations to swooping up the biggest prizes and critical acclaim. Isn’t that what all writers secretly dream off? Acknowledgment for a book well written, Promotion in an increasingly tough industry? Surely excessive praise can only be a good thing? But recently I’ve being wondering, can too much praise spoil a book?
Praise leads to hype, hype leads to inflated expectations and inflated expectations can lead to disappointment and big feelings of being let down. When a book has being shortlisted for more awards than you can remember it’s easy to get carried away and expect brilliant things. It’s no wonder then that so many books fall short of our expectations. So perhaps praise isn’t always such a good thing?
Too much praise also seems to cheapen some books, categorizing them as flash in the pan novels that are having their heyday. But does this kind of hype pigeon-hole certain books?
Two books that really come to mind are Room by Emma Donoghue and Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson. Both books have spine tingling plot lines and with their release came much eager buzz in the literary world with people either recommending them or anticipating their release. A nice steady sense of excitement seemed to gradually build but then over night it was as if you couldn’t escape either book. Suddenly no short list was free of Room and every magazine, newspaper, blogger and bookstore was talking about both books. Expectations suddenly sky rocketed and if you’ve seen my review of Before I Go To Sleep you will know that a few of my book group members felt let down by the book. In this case too much hype definitely spoiled the book.
When Room was nominated for The Orange Prize for fiction in 2011 I read many comments and articles from people tired of seeing this book everywhere and anyway, people were ready for fresh material. They disregarded the book, exclaimed that it’d had it’s moment and it was time to move over.
And yet both books are brilliant in their own right. Off course the media attention they got wouldn’t hurt sales and I’m sure both writers are pleased with the attention their books got, but I wonder if too much praise spoiled their books? Both books seems to have being pigeon-holed as ‘best-sellers’ well surely that isn’t a bad thing….or is it?
Amongst serious literature loves this phrase can have real negative connotations. Do you want to read a book that every reader out there is reading? What is so special about it? Does the book lose a certain elite charm? become mainstream? too easily accessible and therefore cheapened? Being nominate for the big name awards is great but what about when less revered and respected prizes are associated with your book? Perhaps I’m wrong and some writers would gladly welcome all praise for the simple appreciation it offers, but I will admit that I myself have toyed with reading certain novels because they have become recommended by extremely mainstream critics or awards.
It would seem that too much praise really can ruin a book, altering it from serious literature to a throw away paper back that will soon be clogging up every second-hand book shop.
So what does everyone else think? Would you agree with the points I’ve raised or would you completely disagree? Perhaps find yourself stuck somewhere in the middle? I’d love to know what you all think.