Holy shit, Michiko Kakutani normally isn't even this harsh. Dale Peck, maybe. But coming from William T. Vollmann, a National Book Award winner, this opening paragraph of his review of Anthony Swofford's Exit A is just brutal:
“Imagine my satisfaction,” reads the Scribner publicity office’s form letter that came with an advance copy of this book, “when I found myself immersed in a dark love story that was all at once sensual, moody and elegant.” Imagine my dissatisfaction when I found myself not in the least immersed in a love story to which none of these adjectives apply, not even “dark.” For this is a novel that ends as follows: “He wanted to find answers to other questions, too, some of his own, some of hers, but they would answer those later. Together.” This is a fair sample of Anthony Swofford’s prose in his first novel, “Exit A,” prose that befits a Harlequin romance novel more than functioning as (to quote the publicity office again) “confirmation of Swofford as a major literary talent.”
Could you imagine being Swofford and reading this review? I really think I would just crumple. Totally unrelated: I wonder how my life would be different if instead of getting the job I have now, I had instead got that Harlequin job, both of which I interviewed for around the same time.
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