As a reviewer I come up against this problem now and again. When I receive an ARC I do expect to find some grammar and punctuation errors and try to keep my opinions about them to myself; after all I make my fair share of spelling mistakes on a daily basis. But what really irks me is when I receive an ARC that contains poor writing skills. Before a book goes out to even a reviewer there should be someone who has read it first, checking to make sure the book makes sense and is readable.
I bring this up because a few days ago I received an ARC from Harpers titled Proust’s Overcoat. It is the true story of one man’s obsession with collecting things the famed French author had owned. The book is small with only 120 pages but what a mess of a book it is!
In the first chapter the author talks about doing research on Proust for an Italian TV program. She interviews several people who knew him but does not seem to get the story she wants. Then she remembers a calling card she had belonging to a gentleman who collected Proust items. One of her associates goes out and interviews him. So far so good right? Well at the end of the chapter about the interview the author writes this paragraph “Early the next morning I was awoken by a ringing phone. It was Tosi, polite, discreet, to the point.’ I found the calling card. Guerin, the fellow’s name was Jacques Guerin’”.
What? Wait, Tosi already recanted his visit with this collector. Shouldn’t this paragraph come before the visit? I re-read the chapter thinking I may have missed something, but no, I did not. The flow did not make sense. Surely this was a mistake in the flow. I wondered how this got passed the first round of editing.
As I read on I found myself comparing the writing to a bad college paper. The author jumps from subject to subject and person to person without a break in chapters or even a break in paragraphs! I had to stop reading as it seemed the author tried to put in as much information in 120 pages a humanly possible without worrying if it made sense or if anyone would really care; by page 40 I found I did not.
So now I have a dilemma, do I review it based on what I read and criticize the writing or do I skip it all together? Dear Readers, what do you do when faced with a poorly written Arc?