Monday, June 08, 2009

The power of Twitter

Patricia Wood

Truly we live in an age of wonders: Twitter has saved me from hating a book.

Lottery recounts the story of 32-year-old Perry L. Crandall, a slow adult who happens to win the lottery. With an IQ of 76 (one point higher than those deemed mentally retarded), Perry is nevertheless in danger of getting taken advantage of, and false friends (and family) appear on all sides immediately after his big win. Thankfully, Perry keeps in mind the sage advice of his late grandmother and experiences both ups and downs as he learns to deal with his newfound fame and fortune.

Despite its readability, it was taking me forever to get through Lottery. I found it cloying, too perfect, too predictable. The narrator was just oh-so wonderful, the antagonists too facile. Add to these the fact that Lottery was deemed one of the Washington Post Book World's Best Books of the Year, and my indignation was nearly complete.

I was about to throw the book across the room after nearly suffocating from the sickeningly sweet nature of Mr. Perry L. -- by the way, the L. stands for Lucky (gag me) -- Crandall, when I happened across a tweet by one Mr. Nigel Beale (@nigelbeale). Beale, whose litblog Nota Bene Books is well worth your time if you aren't already familiar with it, tweeted that "a book should be evaluated in terms of its capacity to elicit 'real' feelings rather than upon how 'realistic' it might be."

Right: Patricia Wood, not Nigel Beale (obviously)

Beale's tweet couldn't have arrived at a more fortuitous moment. Upon reading these words, I was immediately chagrined. I was condemning Lottery because I believed Perry much too insightful for a man with an IQ of 76. I was criticizing the unrealistic superficiality and one-sidedness of the antagonists and hating the unrealistic "good" characters, who were equally superficial. The whole thing's totally unrealistic! I crowed.

And then, I encountered a scene in the final third of the book. Despite my previous feelings about the novel, this scene -- a wholly unexpected one, I might add -- elicited real tears. (Nevermind that I cry at the drop of a hat.) What had happened? The unbelievable had occurred: Lottery had moved me.

And so, what had been a mediocre, predictable read was transformed into . . . well, if not a outstanding read, at least a moving experience. I came to care for Perry and had his best interests at heart. The rest of the book flew by in a blur of pages, and I finished Lottery feeling as though I had spent my time well.

Lesson learned. Many thanks, Mr. Beale.

In a nutshell: A fast, easy, enjoyable read with a lovable main character, Lottery elicits real feelings, even if it may not always seem realistic.

Bibliolatry Scale: 4 out of 6 stars


Madeleine said...

Terrific review, I do not know if I would spend money to buy it, maybe through a book exchange. I am now curious how this book turned your initial feelings around by the end.
Will let you know when I do read it.

Molly said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post on many different levels. First of all, I have never heard of the book, Lottery, but your review has made me realize it is one that I need to check out for myself.

Secondly, I enjoyed your 'review' of twitter and how it is not only a social tool, but a practical tool as well.

Lastly, I had not visited Nigel Beale's website before, but I followed the link and quickly decided that I needed to become a loyal follower.

Thanks so much for writing such as informative post!

J.S. Peyton said...

That chance that a book will totally (or at least, somewhat) redeem itself near the end is one of the reasons why I'm so reluctant to give up on novels... But I do it anyway.

I glad you gave this one a chance and it turned out well.

By the by, I've given you an award!

Anonymous said...

i'm so happy that things turned out well for you on this read! i've been where you were--wanting to toss a book aside--and see that twitter really be valuable! now i'm wondering (again!) if i should finally jump on the bandwagon...

ORION said...

Thank you for an even-handed honest response to my novel. An artist's intent many times is not so much creating realism (Lottery is more of a parable of our times with so much emphasis on looks, brains and money) but as you point out eliciting feelings from readers. When I read I want to be moved in some way and when I create a story I want to move my readers.
Much aloha
Patricia Wood

Kristin Dodge said...

Excellent review... you put into words what I could not. The end slayed me.