The Books We Don’t Understand by Tim Parks
This article has been published on The New York Review of Books. It begins:
What is going on when a book simply makes no sense to you? Perhaps a classic that everyone praises. Or something new you’re being asked to review, something a publisher has warmly recommended.
I don’t mean that you find the style tiresome, or the going slow; simply that the characters, their reflections, their priorities, the way they interact, do not really add up. You feel you’re missing them in the dark. And your inevitable reaction, especially if you are an experienced reader, is that this must be the author’s fault. He or she is not a good observer of life.