During a class that I took with Anne Lamott recently, she quoted Shirley Jackson, who famously said, “a confused reader is an antagonistic reader.”
Generally, when I can’t follow a novel, my first assumptions center around me: I’m too tired when reading, or I’m reading in short intervals that do the book a disservice, or I’m just stupider than I used to be.
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik won all kinds of awards and I can see why. I bought it for my sister, once upon a time, because she really loved this kind of fiction and she’d sort of given up reading toward the end. I knew it might be the last book she ever read, so I did my research. Read reviews.
I generally can take or leave fantasy and horror, but this was good. There are interesting ideas about power, honor, gender, building alliances, and societal exclusions (in this case, the Jewish members of a town), set in a unique and well-realized world. Lots of magic.
But here’s my little gripe!
a confused reader is an antagonistic reader.
The author changed the point of view frequently and between multiple characters. The only demarcation of a shift in the POV was an abstract symbol and extra space between paragraphs.
Sometimes it took a couple of paragraphs to land in the scene.
It’s a longish novel, which gave me time to get annoyed. Why make the reader wade through even that small amount of text to figure out who’s talking when a simple heading would’ve pointed the way?
In any case. Point taken, Shirley Jackson!