DAD THE EMERITUS HISTORIAN OF GRAECO-ROMAN EGYPT: Is that a good book?
DAD: So...you're going to write about it.
I've sometimes quipped that a good subtitle for this blog would be "I Read These Things So You Don't Have To." However, I've found, oddly enough, that even though I can usually retain my equanimity while reading subpar Victorian fiction--usually--it's much more difficult to do so while reading subpar contemporary fiction. The stylistic and cultural differences, I think, make it easier to switch into pure academic mode when I work with Victorian fiction: because I'm already distanced from the text, even as someone who specializes in the period, I can distract myself from...infelicities...by thinking about genre conventions, the author's distinct stylistic quirks, whatever religious quarrel is on display, and so forth. Even if the book is inept, it's not our inept. By contrast, it takes more conscious effort to estrange myself from a book published in 2009. In the case of pop neo-Victorian fiction, the effort partly derives from the novels not being strange enough--e.g., the heroine seems to be a twenty-first century Mary Sue in crinolines, or something equally egregious.