Every time I try to read new, well-reviewed, good word-of-mouth literary fiction, it always bites me in the ass.
Consider Beautiful Children, by first-time novelist Charles Bock. This is the book-jacket synopsis:
"One Saturday night in Las Vegas, twelve-year-old Newell Ewing goes out with a friend and doesn't come home. In the aftermath of his disappearance, his mother, Lorraine, makes daily pilgrimages to her son's room and tortures herself with memories. Equally distraught, the boy's father, Lincoln, finds himself wanting to comfort his wife even as he yearns for solace, a loving touch, any kind of intimacy."
Okay, borderline intriguing. Then you have the critical blurbs, like that from The Washington Post:
"In the no-man's-land of Bock's Vegas there remain only the survival strategies of the hopelessly inept young. I cannot think of another novelist who has dared to attack this most pressing and complex issue so ferociously."
And then you have the text itself:
Editor's note: I made it through about 100 pages of this book, and then I just stopped. I've been looking through the text this morning, trying to find a quotable snippet that would illustrate why I can't read it anymore, but taken out of context, any bits I'm finding seem either just profane or too descriptive of some of the less savory aspects of strippers' and street kids' lives. And that's not really the point. Bad language doesn't bother me, and I've read lots of weird descriptions of violence, sexuality, evil, what have you (I read both true crime and fiction by Chuck Palahniuk, so evidently I'm getting jaded?). So no quote here. Just a vague sense of feeling dirty, and that the world is icky, and that I am annoyed with literary fiction for being "ugly fiction" and for always making me feel this way. Now I'll be off novels again for a while. I'm sorry I can't illustrate what I mean better.