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Can You Respect A Novel But Still Dislike It?

By Robert Bruce @robertbruce76

Here’s a problem I face when I’m reviewing or offering my opinion on famous, well-received novels.

I have to separate my subjective opinion from a much wider objective opinion. For example, I recently wrote about how much I really disliked Possession. I’ve called the novel “dull,” “a slog,” and all sorts of other negative things. The same goes for other novels at the bottom of my highly subjective and basically meaningless rankings, like Mrs. Dalloway, A Dance To The Music of Time, and The Sound and the Fury.

I have to recognize that though I dislike, and even greatly dislike, these novels, many literature critics who know much more than me believe these are some of the best novels ever written.

The more I read through these novels, the more I realize that I can dislike them while still respecting the books and their authors. Virginia Woolf was absolutely an incredibly talented author. She knew exactly what she wanted to do with Mrs. Dalloway and she did it. I can mostly understand why so many people love the novel. But I hate it.

Can my dislike for Mrs. Dalloway and Possession coexist with my respect for these novels and their authors?  That’s the tension I’m trying to embrace on this blog while improving on my ability to show appreciation for novels I don’t personally like.

This isn’t unique to reading. An athlete can dislike another athlete while respecting their talent. We can dislike a contemporary designed house while appreciating the skill of the architect and the time the designer spent on the house. You can dislike a politician while recognizing their intellect—after all, you’ve got to be an incredible marketer to get elected these days.

So, yes, I think I’m too the point of saying that Possession is a “great book”—but, personally, I hate it.

Am I making sense here? Can you relate?

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