Here is the link to a review of SOME RISE BY SIN that will appear in the print editions of the New York Time Book Review on Sunday, June 25 and is now available online:
If the reviews from the Seattle Times, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Kirkus, Library Journal, Booklist, etc. gave the novel an A or a B-plus, the Times weighs in with a C to C-plus. The difference illustrates how subjective literary criticism can be.
The reviewer’s comment that SOME RISE BY SIN suffers because it lacks major youthful characters is ludicrous. Nor do I think that the fact that the book ventures into crowded territory is relevant. I’m of course biased, but I think the novel stands up very well in comparison with Lowry’s Under the Volcano and McCarthy’s Blood Meridien. And do I detect a note of politically-correct condescension when, after questioning if a white, middle age American male “is the best vehicle to explore Mexican pain,” he gives me a good grade for creating developed Mexican characters and a believable lesbian relationship?
I’m not middle-age, for one thing — I’m a downright seventy-something geezer! More to the point, I don’t think that a writer’s age, race, gender, or nationality should call into question his/her bona-fides for creating characters of a different age, race. gender, or nationality. The writer’s talent, honesty, and diligence should be the only factors considered.
One comment about the more favorable Post-Gazette review. It states that my depictions of the grisly violence perpetrated by Mexican drug-traffickers, and the dialogue I use are “explicitly ruthless, yet perfectly played to its characters if you can stomach it.” Alas, most readers today will be able to digest both without hurling. My wife recently took our three granddaughters, ages 14, 8, and 6, to see “Wonder Woman.” Leslie told me that W.W. slays countless people and creatures in various ways, and these acts are portrayed very graphically. The comic-book Wonder Woman of my own 1940s-1950s childhood took a vow never to kill or maim her adversaries. Clearly, that sort of restraint no longer applies, especially in a summer block-buster movie. Anyway, our granddaughters loved W.W., my 63-year-old wife was troubled by its goriness.
I remark on this not to criticize the Post-Gazette’s critique of my novel, but to criticize what’s become of our popular culture.