There are fashions in words and expressions, as there are in hemlines, colors, and cocktails.
I like reading book reviews, even as I know I will never read most of these books. Particularly novels. I don't read many novels. And I certainly won't read most of the ones I read reviews of. I've gotten fussy in my old age, and most books are too earnest, too au courant, and too badly written to appeal to me.
Which is why I am starting to feel that I am being bludgeoned by two fashionable descriptive words in particular": "urgent" and "essential", most often combined with "voice", and that most usually in the form of "new voice". The "urgent" is usually applied to some softcore political screed, denouncing our current President and associated administrative developments.
Note, I am not using these particular words to make a judgment on the actual works at issue. The last thing a writer is responsible for is what hackneyed phrase an overworked book reviewer chooses to use to decorate a review. I just suspect that not all of them are either urgent or essential.
A few examples
- Time described Lisa Halliday, the author of Asymmetry, as "an essential new voice in fiction", which is probably the paradigmatic formulation.
- Goodreads describes Shana Youngdahl, author of As Many Nows as I Can Get, as "an urgent new voice in young adult fiction", also a popular formulation.
- The Globe and Mail describes Salman Rushdie's The Golden House as "an urgent new novel". It deals with our current political situation, and so I will evade its blandishments.
- An essential YA novel
- An urgent new voice in American fiction
- Roxane Gay, on the other hand, is responsible for Urgent, Unheard Stories, since that is actually the title of her own book, so less wiggle room there.
I don't read novels to be hectored, persuaded, woked, or converted. If they try to do this, I ask them to leave my limited time and attention alone. Sometimes I am cordial, sometimes I am not.
What overused review words have lately been annoying you?
Or is it just that reviewers are diverging in their reading interests from the rest of the reading public?