Several years ago, overwhelmed by the flood of material unleashed annually by the publishing industry, I decided to establish a screening program by purchasing only books that at least one reviewer had described as ''astonishing.''That's Joe Queenan, writing in the New York Times in 2007, but now here's the New York Times with its 10 Best Books of 2009, calling a memoir "luminous." How can I trust their judgment? To be fair, they didn't call anything "incandescent" or "astonishing."
Previously, I had limited my purchases to merchandise deemed ''luminous'' or ''incandescent,'' but this meant I ended up with an awful lot of novels about bees, Provence or Vermeer. The problem with incandescent or luminous books is that they veer toward the introspective, the arcane or the wise, while I prefer books that go off like a Roman candle. When I buy a book, I don't want to come away wiser or happier or even better informed. I want to get blown right out of the water by the author's breathtaking pyrotechnics. I want to come away astonished.
December 5, 2009
I thought the memo had gone out that the word "luminous" had been banned from book reviews: