Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Push. A Negative Critique.

A review by Amazon user V. T. Maiden

"We have become a culture that loves to wallow in every kind of dysfunction, psycho-emotional trauma, and human pathology. The more shocking, the more depraved, the better."

The critique I chose for Push is a one star review from Amazon.com's (US) website. It is highly critical of the book as a gratuitous shock-fest which portrays a horribly depressing picture of American life which feeds a dangerous "celebrity-obsessed, gossip-rag devouring, dime store psychology-consuming culture". There is very little criticism of the book on the grounds of literacy, character or plot, focusing instead on the very intense and explicit descriptions throughout.

In fact most of the review is a diatribe against the prevalent shock-culture of the United States. Which he (or she) criticises as being disingenuous and is little more than "take[ing] profoundly disturbing issues like child sex abuse, morbid obesity, and illiteracy, and exaggerate and sensationalize them to the point of grotesque circus fun-mirror caricature." Which is justified "by reminding ourselves how important it is that these important "issues" be brought to the light rather than swept under the rug." Maiden criticises this for turning people's misery into entertainment for "white folk" but also perpetuates stereotypes:

"These writers have become rich and famous, sought-after on college campuses, and are now considered authorities on African-American life and the hidden truths lurking within the tormented black psyche. In fact, the incestuous black father has now become a stock character of contemporary fiction (and even film -- remember "The Cider House Rules"?). Some may consider that progress. I consider it crass and cynical exploitation."

Personally I would not call this a book review seeing as it does not really criticise the book Push but rather it's themes and related literature. It is as I said a diatribe on American culture, and whilst I agree with it's sentiments I also feel that shocking gratuitous fiction designed to raise can sometimes help (such as The Jungle in regards to the meatpacking industry). However I do agree with Maiden's point that this sort of literature (and as television such as The Gerry Springer Show) is mostly viewed as a freakshow/shock-fest for the better-off.

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