I think everyone has things like this, where they hate something that's widely considered excellent for no apparent reason. For example, I have an irrational hatred of Dostoevsky, for absolutely no good reason that I can articulate. I just hate his work.
I've read bad reviews of books I liked a lot. Not every writer is for everyone.
I am surprised by your feelings on Mitchell - I adore him - but yeah, I guess your feelings are your feelings. Reading this reminds me of how I feel about A Visit from the Goon Squad and The Goldfinch, although yours is perhaps a more mature response, since you seem to think it's your fault, and I'm still convinced everyone else is wrong about those two.
I can't stand John Steinbeck. I get that his books are well written, but they grate on me. Dickens is worse. I found Great Expectations boring, contrived, and slow. Sometimes great authors have a habit that just brushes an individual the wrong way.
I thought for a second you were talking about the British comedian. I was ready to argue.
@1 There is nothing irrational in a hate of Dostoyevsky, he's simply not a very good writer. And you're not alone in this camp (I can only take a few pages of the Underground Man before flinging the book aside). People who like Dostoyevsky read him because of his characters' grappling with philosophical problems they encounter (or perceive to encounter) in their own lives. In search of a cure, they seek and identify their own neuroses. In many of the English translations Dostoyevsky is considerably smoothed over--in Russian he is sloppy. Don't get me wrong, Dostoyevsky is an important writer--just not a very good one.
Jane Austen makes me unhinged, but my beloved thinks she's fantastic. I've never heard of Mitchell, other than as a British comedian.
Cloud Atlas was a good movie.
Thanks for this, Paul. I had this same reaction to The Sheltering Sky, which is apparently some sort of masterpiece. *Shrug.*
I agree with you about Mitchell's writing. I find it pretentious and faux deep. Easy for dummies to read and feel like they have accomplished something.
I have seen him talk and he does come off like a nice guy though.
Paul, I am sure David Mitchell would "speak" to you-- he is a very good man, and if you were a drinking man you could have a beer with him and enjoy his company like I have. As for your dislike of his books, obviously that is another matter entirely.
You hated Franzen's Freedom, and it was great. My Struggle was terrible, and it got great reviews. I'm going to read Mitchell since there seems to be no reason not to in this review/rant.
I think its a very mature perspective to be able to recognize something's quality regardless of your own preference for it. There is just loads of art, literature, film, music, etc. that I recognize as truly inspired and of great value, even though i personally am not moved by it, or even dislike it.

The opposite of this is the people who give negative Amazon reviews to classics:…

I trust you much more as a critic knowing that you are aware that your opinion on something is not the end all, be all of criticism.

My hates Im not necessarily proud of:
Dear Hunter
Ethan Frome
Steely Dan
Jerry Lewis (or really anything/anyone thats "really big in France")
@13, do you mean the band Deerhunter? That's an odd list. Maybe add TuneYards, Christianity and Renaissance paintings? San Francisco?
You should give The Bone Clocks another shot - the narrative shifts perspective between several different characters, to the thing that put you off is not a constant.
Reading this review makes me very happy. I had the same visceral hatred reaction when I plowed through Ghostwritten way back in the day when it was published. It pissed me off way more than it should have. Struck me as bad Murakami, but not even the bad Murakami that Murakami himself has perfected lately, but rather someone doing a high school reader response assignment on him. It's followed me ever since preventing me from finishing another of his books.
The funny thing is that I read your article and then went back to reading the book. The section I'm reading is from the perspective of an author seething about a negative review. So you can take comfort in the possibility that you were the inspiration for a book you hated ;)
@14, @13 may mean The Deer Hunter, a pretentious Viet Nam movie.
"It was my early days as a book reviewer, and I made an amateur mistake: I wasn't reviewing the book so much as my response to the book."

I guess as an amateur you hadn't yet learned that you could just review your response to not reading the book and be done with it.
Interesting. I actually quite like his work and I'm looking forward to reading Bone Clocks. But I can see where your distaste comes from – he seems like a writer more interested in pulling off pyrotechnic tricks then in exposing something true about himself or real about the human condition. Black Swan Green is the exception to this, and seems like a deeply personal coming of age story. As you suggest, it all comes down to a matter of taste.
Have you considered whining about it at extreme length? Oh. I see you have. Okay then.
I had never pre-ordered a book before its release, until the Bone Clocks. I love Mitchell that much. I had flickers during Clock Atlas, of a "trying to hard" and "this is a bit too clever" kind of feeling. And Number9Dream and Ghostwritten had moments that were just CRAZY. So although I still loved those I can see why someone else might. But I truly can't get why you'd dislike Black Swan Green so much, when it seems like a sweet, simple and well-written coming of age story.
I really dislike Mitchell's writing too! I think I find the author altogether too present in the text, too busy arranging plot devices and fiddling with sentence structure. Jacob De Zoet was boring, repetitious, interminable--and seemed to indulge in some questionable ethnic stereotyping to boot. I am flummoxed by the praise for him. He's certainly ambitious, but I am just not interested. You're not alone, Paul!
I have shame about disliking David Mitchell's works. As friends kept asking me if I'd read them, I'd mumble something and promise I'd try again. And I do pick up his books and begin to read, before a malaise slips over me. There's something in the language itself. It feels dusty, oddly devoid of emotional range. I can't find my way to the characters. Some of his work is so complex that it feels like a thrilling aerial act. But it's so empty to me that it's all a lot of floundering in the dark. I've never heard of anyone disliking his work before this review. Now I don't feel so bad.

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