Herrick Lake

Reading has always been an open path for me. It is the route to escape, joy, adventure, companionship, and with my appreciation of of translated literature, developed about ten years ago, the understanding of other cultures. So, reading the #IBP22 long list is a special anticipation for me every year.

This year’s list, in my opinion, is particularly brilliant. I am only half way through it, but I have read of mothers with Parkinson’s and manic depression, daughters who love them, Polish Jews from the 1700s, and a head coming out of a toilet made of fecal matter and trash. Wait, what?

There are those readers who thrive on bold writing. Writing in which the author knows no boundaries in imagination, vivid imagery, and horror to capture our attention in conveying their point. While I admire the audacity required to write like this, I personally struggle with feeling disgust at the same time.

Brave souls in our Shadow Panel adore this kind of writing, the kind written by Fernanda Melchor and Bora Chung. What does it say about me who likes other books better? Do I expect the world to fit into a neat concept of “ironed tablecloths, bone china, and polished silverware for tea”? No, our world is full of rags, chipped pottery, and no utensils at all for food which can scarcely be found. I know that…

I read for pleasure. I read for increased understanding. I read for enlightenment and new awareness. But, I inwardly struggle with books which highlight the grotesque. Do you?

9 thoughts on “Sunday Salon: Midway through the International Booker Prize 2022 longlist, and wondering about books which shock us

  1. I would definitely struggle with the book featuring a head coming out of a toilet. I’d be wondering all the time whether the author was just trying for shock value (one eye on getting sales as a result) rather than for an aesthetic purpose

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  2. Yes, I, too, struggle with books that shock me. I’m easily shocked, so that makes things even more difficult. There are books others have loved (I’m tempted to name one of these, but I’ll refrain from doing so) that horrified me so much that I’d almost say I was traumatized. I seem to be able to accept shocking parts of books a little better when the parts are justified by being things that actually occurred in life or things the characters would have done. Nevertheless, there are whole genres of books that I never read because of traumatic readings in the past.

    Reading a book is an intense experience for me.


  3. M, books that shock to just shock are not my cup of tea. I read for pleasure, to learn, to escape, and for so many other reasons. Being shocked by a head coming out a toilet is not one of them. I’m not against the grotesque or being shocked in some stories, because they can lend a layer of depth. However, I feel that the majority of the time, the grotesque is often used for shock value and nothing more. Definitely an interesting post. xx

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  4. I definitely struggle with books that highlight the grotesque. Unfortunately, it seems that more and more are being written these days. Authors seem to be pushing the edginess envelope more each year. I tend to steer clear of this type of writing if possible.


  5. I read because I find that great books (and even good books) bring me an endless source of joy that provides a counter to the vulgarities that continually bombard us in these times. I do try to read with affection. I must confess that literary prizes are rarely what determines my next book choice. That said, I always enjoy reading your impressions of the Booker candidates.

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  6. As long as it’s well done, I’m up for it! If I feel like it’s just for shock value or doesn’t contribute to the story, maybe not. I loved Cursed Bunny and that story in particular!


  7. Good question! It’s very hard to shock or offend me, so sometimes I get annoyed when I feel like an author is trying too hard. I want the shocking or disgusting things in a book to have a point. If they’re just there for shock value, I’m irritated. I don’t mind shocking things if I understand why the author put them in the book.


  8. I too am up for it if it’s well done – and adds to the story. I like trying experimental writing – it doesn’t always gel naturally, however I find that edgy ‘horrorshow’ stuff easier to take than abuse or graphic sex scenes.

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  9. “No, our world is full of rags, chipped pottery, and no utensils at all for food which can scarcely be found…. But, I inwardly struggle with books which highlight the grotesque.” So true, Bellezza. So many books, so little time. Why dwell on those that drags one down further? I appreciate your audacity to call them out by using the word disgust. I would have the same feeling too. Ha, just reminds me of the toilet that rings out beautiful music the Japanese gentleman has in his apartment in Elegance of the Hedgehog. What a contrast. 🙂 And, great job in reading through such a long list! Thanks for sharing with us, Bellezza!


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