The Hype Machine

5 Aug

There are two books coming out this month that, despite the hype they’ve received, I have zero desire to read. One is a little more hype-y than the other, but still my level of excitement for either of these is negligable. The first is Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart and the second is Freedom by Johnathan Frazen.

I got an email from Amazon regarding their picks for the Best Books of August and both of these novels were on the list. I’ve always said that I don’t mind hype regarding books, I kind of thing its a good indicator of the quality of the book, but typically this is only true of reader-fueled hype. Gary Shteyngart’s book is a victim of over-hype on the part of his publisher (in my opinion), and I’m loving all the publicity out there, especially the book trailer (featuring James Franco!):

But! I don’t have any idea what the book is about! I feel like, maybe somewhere there have been reviews, but I just don’t have a clue what the book is about. Maybe about a guy who can’t read? If you’ve done a review on this, and can shed some light on this book, and if the hype is worth it, please let me know in the comments. Part of the other reason I don’t want to read this book is because it feels too out there — out of my comfort zone, I should say — for me. Is it post-modern? (If so, this kind of explains my distaste.) But I can’t really put my finger on why I can’t get excited about this one.

The other book — Freedom by Johnathan Frazen — is a little trickier for me. It hasn’t been getting the same kind of marketing dump that Shteyngart’s has, but the noise has been similiar. I blame the hype for Freedom on the fact that Frazen’s previous novel The Corrections was a huge success, by most people’s standards. People were reading this really long novel and falling all over themselves with praise. It won the 2001 National Book Award for Fiction, so the praise certainly wasn’t unwarrented. And his next novel has been nearly 10 years in the making, which means that it’s been one of the most hotly anticipated books of the year. These are all things that I understand. I don’t despute these facts, and I understand why people are excited for Freedom.


I couldn’t finish The Corrections. It’s one of those DNFs that I’m not very proud of — and it makes me feel like I’m not smart or insightful enough to get it. Granted it was a pretty deep, dark book about the complexities of family and when it was released, I was graduating from high school. I like to think that I was a pretty mature 17-year-old in 2001, but like most 17-year-olds, I was pretty self-involved. That being said, in the nine years since its release, I haven’t tried again. It’s sitting on my parents’ bookshelf and I keep wanting to pick it up, but I didn’t even get past the first 20 pages the first time. That’s not exactly a good feeling to go in on.  

So maybe its understandable — or not — that I have no desire to read Freedom. Maybe I don’t want to be disappointed again. Or maybe I’m thinking I should try The Corrections again, now that I’m older and wiser, since it has a proven track record already. I don’t want to give up on Franzen after 20 pages, almost 10 years ago. But with so many great books being released in 2010, I need a reason to give it another shot. Do you have one for me?


9 Responses to “The Hype Machine”

  1. er August 5, 2010 at 12:11 pm #

    it. is. so. worth. it. read it for sure!

  2. Nora August 5, 2010 at 12:49 pm #

    I guess I’m so not in the loop because while I’ve heard of Jonathan Frazen, I have not heard of either of these books. I blame it on the fact that I live in the MidWest. We are stuck and rarely get wind of things in a timely fashion (including fashion!). Interesting concept to have a book trailer with James Franco in it, though…

  3. C_Girl August 5, 2010 at 1:03 pm #

    Shteyngart just leaves me cold. I’d need some glowing recommendations to venture in. Franzen, now, I am looking forward to. I never thought The Corrections was a gift from god or anything but I really enjoyed it (f*cked up midwestern families are my bread and butter). Your Franzen fears are the same ones I have about never finishing DeLillo’s Underworld.

    I asked this on another post I think, but have you tackled Anthropology of an American Girl yet? I’m anxious for someone to agree with me that it is as terrible and self-indulgent as I think it is.

    • Rachel August 5, 2010 at 1:08 pm #

      I can’t stand DeLillo. I read White Noise in college and absolutely hated it. But yeah, I’m sure people have their not-favorite authors for different reasons, but I don’t know if that’s what this hesitation is. I’ve never read any Shteyngart, so who knows? I might love him.

      I haven’t started Anthropology yet, but when I do, you can be sure I’ll review it here. It’s not high on my list for the moment though.

  4. Life of a Doctor's Wife August 5, 2010 at 2:51 pm #

    First of all, I’ve never read any Franzen. My husband read The Corrections, I think?, and I have no idea what he thought about it. He certainly didn’t love it enough to force it on me, that’s for sure.

    He also read Absurdistan, Shteyngart’s earlier novel. And he thought it was… weird. But not bad. He made it all the way through.

    Anyway, I read about “Super Sad” in an NYT Sunday book review a few weeks back and it sounds really interesting. I understand it to be a doomed romance between two star crossed lovers set in a distopian version of the near future. So I’m going to check it out. (The NYT has a bunch of reviews on “Super Sad,” so see if any of those shed light on what the book’s about.)

    I guess I’m hoping that he’ll be in the J. S. Foer or D. Eggers camp of writers, but we’ll find out.

  5. Greg Zimmerman August 6, 2010 at 4:19 pm #

    Did you see the Ken’s total evisceration of Shhhhhteyngart a few weeks ago?

    Sorta funny.

    Regarding The Corrections – well, I don’t know. Maybe just try Freedom fresh? I’m one of those nerds who can’t wait for it, ’cause The Corrections blew me away…

    • Rachel August 6, 2010 at 4:30 pm #

      I did see that! But this was before I was even giving Super Sad any consideration whatsoever. Man, I was gonna put it on my library list, but maybe not after I re-read that.

      The thing with The Corrections — and therefore with Freedom — is that I don’t know many people that didn’t like The Corrections. So I think maybe it’s just me.

  6. Jenny August 6, 2010 at 6:01 pm #

    I haven’t heard anything about that first book.. just seen it in the book stores. That trailer gave me even less desire to read the book though.

  7. Mayowa August 7, 2010 at 5:42 pm #

    I didn’t finish The Corrections either. I could see it’s greatness before me but I just couldn’t. I loved Gary Shteyngart’s Absurdistan though and I hope this next one is great too.

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