Between the Lines Book Club: What Makes This Book So Great, by Jo Walton

between the lines book club logoBetween the Lines Book Club is reading Among Others by Jo Walton this month. If you are in the Sacramento, California area meet us at 10:30AM at Arden Dimick Library on Saturday, October 23, 2015 for an in-person chat! Otherwise, leave comments here. Among Others is a coming of age story about a young woman who finds her place in the world through reading. It may or may not also be a fantasy involving faeries, depending on how you look at it.

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If you enjoy Walton’s writing, or if you have an interest in the genre of literary criticism, I urge you to check out another book by Walton. It’s a collection of essays called What Makes This Book So Great. In this collection, Walton talks about a huge range of speculative fiction books, as well as some mainstream fiction. In fact, one of her best essays addresses the difference between SFF and mainstream fiction. When she says, “I tend to read everything as SF” I realized that this is true of me, as well, although I’d say “speculative fiction.”

Walton also talks about the pleasures of re-reading and about the rewards and pitfalls of this practice. I loved her invention of “The Suck Fairy”:

If you read a book for the first time, and it sucks, that’s noting to do with her. It just sucks. Some books do. The Suck Fairy comes in when you come back to a book that you liked when you read it before, and on re-reading, well, it sucks. You can say that you have changed, you can hit your forehead dramatically and ask yourself how you could possibly have missed the sukiness the first time-or you can say that The Suck Fairy has been through it while the book was sitting on the shelf and inserted the suck…The advantage of this is exactly the advantage of thinking of one’s once-beloved ex as having been eaten by a zombie, who is now shambling around using the name and body of the former person. It lets one keep one’s original love clear of later betrayals.

I recommend this book primarily for fans of SFF but anyone interested in literary criticism should pick it up and read a few of the essays at least. It’s gorgeous writing and Walton always seems like that cool but tough professor who would red ink all your essays but also teach class in a coffee shop and buy everyone snacks.

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