Exhibit 9.18

The Thirteenth Tale

This was another work book club pick and based on the early buzz around the water cooler (ed note: we don’t actually have a water cooler) it’s going over a lot better than The History of Love. That’s a shame because THoL has a bit more weight to it, but it’s hard to resist a gripping mystery, especially won with such reverence for the books it’s liberally borrowing from.

Apparently a lot of people felt this way as this book was huge. Or so I’m told. Despite being a Times #1 bestseller with favorable reviews, I’d never heard of the book when a coworker suggested it. There’s probably a lesson there about the sometimes arbitrary distinctions that separate commercial fiction from literary fiction. This book, like a lot of the books that get picked for book clubs just like mine, doesn’t straddle that line as much as it refuses to stake a claim. Its language isn’t the most artful but it’s mostly graceful and compelling. Its plot is a mystery with a strong gothic element, but it’s literary rather than sensational, purposefully following in the tradition of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre (nearly to a fault). Ultimately, it’s not a book I’ll find myself mulling over years later or returning to, but it’s a book that more than deserves its successes, literary or commercial.

To put it another way: there aren’t enough books that work this well to spend time worrying about its literary value. It does exactly what it means to do, even if it all it means to do is tell a good story.

There’s a place for that on my bookshelf.

Update: Odd. Two hours after I wrote this post I came across an essay by Michael Chabon defending entertainment in literature. He, as expected, says it better.

Comment / Posted in Books, Clubs, Fiction

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *