January 15, 2024

I just added a new entry to the Book Log for ‘Convenience Store Woman,’ but I have more to complain about. It just didn’t really fit in with the review of the book because it had more to do with how much I hate Goodreads review culture. I honestly think it’s a symptom of how social media in general has transformed the ‘reader’ landscape (like Booktok, Bookstagram, etc.) I don’t want to be too elitist about it, because I do think it’s a net good if more people are reading. But it means that Goodreads reviews are horribly unreliable, and I can’t read through them without getting annoyed.

Goodreads has turned into something of a social media platform in and of itself, what with the Readosaurus/“I yeet my books back and forth”/trapped in a time warp of unfunny Tumblr gifs from 2011/bizarre amalgamation of bad politics masquerading as literary critique/book influencer 30-books-in-30-days culture going on. I hate that it has an outsized impact on the publishing industry, and I hate that it passes for thoughtful engagement with reading. This is completely ignoring the issue of normal, garden variety bad takes on books, of which there are plenty. I find the Goodreads userbase is especially asinine about classic novels, for some reason.

A lot of people there want to be a comedian, or to have some really insightful political take, or blog about their personal life, or really do anything except just talk about the book. And when they do talk about the book, many of them have opinions that do not match my own, to be generous. Years ago, Goodreads tricked me into reading ‘The Girl on the Train’ with a 4 star review, when in reality it was utter slop, and I have been jaded ever since. Btw, worth noting that this book is STILL rated higher than ‘The Metamorphosis.’ If this won’t convince you Goodreads is not a place where serious people write serious thoughts, nothing will.

Actually, speaking of ‘The Metamorphosis,’ one of the most infamous examples of this phenomenon is the top review, in which the reviewer randomly bolds and italicizes words for no reason, insists the novel is just “a rather pointless novel about a bug that dies,” boldly claims its fame can be chalked up to “English teachers got ahold of this novel.” This review is prefaced with 5 paragraphs of seething disclaimers about how she’s a serious grad student and she hates classics because of the eeeevil pretentious readers who pushed back against her review. Really groundbreaking stuff.

This rant in particular was inspired by the top critical review of ‘Convenience Store Woman’ being garden variety bad and blaming their own misinterpretation of the central critique of the novel on the novel itself. This review specifically criticized the fact that Murata is apparently trying to write a takedown on conformist culture, which you cannot do with an autistic character because they enjoy conformity. The reviewer, naturally, conflates ‘conformity’ with ‘routinization,’ which are two different things, and also completely misses that Keiko’s whole problem is she does not conform to social norms.

Of course, if you continue reading, you will also come across people who gave it a one star rating for including an incel as a primary character with typical social media-y buzzword phrases. Really amazing that a book as simple as this didn’t communicate to some reviewers that the incel stalker who hates women is a bad and unsympathetic person. If a book contains a character you don’t like, it means the book endorses this character’s worldview, after all. Everyone knows that.

Photograph of a man with the caption It's all so tiresome.

Alright, I’ll stop ranting now and go make a peanut butter banana smoothie instead. I think I’m going to read the second half of ‘Crying in H Mart’ next, unless I get too sad again.

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