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I imagine it must take some training, and discipline, to become a professional art critic. Namely, a book reviewer. Aside from having an almost comprehensive knowledge base of literary art, one must exercise some semblance of professional distance from the work. It would be easy to give high marks to any work that moved you in a personal way, but it must also be important to award prestige to works that excel in their craft even if one personally disagreed with it. In a very roundabout way, I’d like compare this critics’ dilemma to becoming burnt out on fiction. If you have a great run of reading three or four or five books, one that completely renewed your love for literary art, but then hit a rut and nothing sparks any desire at all. Of course this happens in other facets of life, too. Growing up, I played a lot of tennis. Area and regional tournaments in the summer, lessons twice a week all year round, and then competitive 6A tennis in high school. That much of anything and you’re going to get burnt out. It lost its appeal and the site of a racquet just upset me. Coaches see this all too often and their advice helped me find my passion again. You take time off. And you definitely take time off from anything competitive, maybe you just hit with a friend for 30 minutes or so while you shoot the breeze from across the net. I use this long winded analogy for fiction, in that sometimes even serious, committed lovers of fiction can’t seem to find their way out of a reading rut. What works for me is less serious reading fare; something akin to those relaxed sessions with friends. And for me that means some gritty suspense or mysteries. Below are some titles that might renew your interest in fiction, or even the hard boiled mystery.
The Snowman by Jo Nesbo- Nesbo is trying his best to usurp Stieg Larsson as Scandinavia’s premier suspense writer.
The Cut by George Pelecanos- Pelecanos is an ex detective and earned his street cred writing for the gritty, critically acclaimed TV drama The Wire.
The Anniversary Man by R.J. Ellory- A psychologically damaged protagonist who must solve decades old case? Modern noir never sounded so good.
The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollack- Although a debut, Pollack proves himself worthy of gritty and uncompromising storytelling.