Friday, November 22, 2013

Interview with Feliks

I met Feliks on Goodreads. Wait, let me rephrase this - I stumbled upon Feliks on Goodreads. To be honest, aside from a few interactions in various threads, I know nothing about Feliks. He commented on a thread I started, and contributed to the discussion in a very passionate and informed way. I do not always agree with his opinions, but I have to admit that he makes a convincing case.
Thus, intrigued as I was (and seeing that he has over 200 reviews under his belt), I invited him to participate in my little Interview series.

About: I have nothing to post here. Feliks did not answer this question, his profile is set to private, and he is as elusive as an eel. But behind the (intentional or unintentional) veil of mystery is a well-versed reader (judging by my interactions with him) who fights for what he believes is right, takes a stance and does not buckle, and expresses himself without reservations.  

Do you have specific genres that you review, and what is your favorite one?

Yes. I am fairly well-versed in the espionage genre. If you browse the books of Len Deighton or John leCarre, you will usually see a review of mine. A collection of shorter reviews --dwelling on the primary authors in this field--can be found here:

This came about accidentally but morphed into a mini-tutorial for readers new to this genre. The thread also covers action, mystery, and thriller.

On average, how many books do you review each month?

Three or four at most. I only review books which for some reason, have resurfaced in my memory and spontaneously generated fresh excitement; ideally books which are potential new favorites for readers as-yet-unaware-of-them.

For instance I was musing last month on William Goldman and 'Marathon Man' and then got to thinking that few people these days probably are aware of the very-obscure sequel, and I found myself excited about turning people on to it. So I sat down and did my best to summarize it.

Do you accept unsolicited review requests, or do you only review books you select yourself?

What are 'unsolicited review requests'? I've never heard of such a thing. Do you mean a contemporary author who wants me to read his book on order that I may then, review it for him? What nonsense.

Considering the recent surge of self-published books on the market, what is your experience with self-published titles?

Cynicism. Its like asking me whether I think that the tiny little portable cameras everyone totes around these days, makes average citizens into bonafide movie directors. Uploading videos to YouTube isn't directing; and mere e-publishing isn't 'being an author' (to my mind). Its just adding a push-button automated process to flood the world with mediocrity. Talent isn't distributed in that manner, no matter if 'tools of the trade' are made available in droves. The internet is almost entirely an incubator for dilettantes.

The flip side is this: if a new John Kennedy O'Toole or a new Nick Drake emerge in this landscape, they won't have to commit suicide. But really, is that yet even a justification for the debasement of culture in such massive fashion? Said another way: is it fair to let symphony orchestras go bankrupt so that new, up-and-coming garage bands can get their big breaks?

As a reviewer, you have to state your honest opinions. Do you publish all reviews regardless of the rating?

I don't understand the question. If I've rated a book I don't care who has an issue with it. If I'm bruising someone's feelings, tough luck!

Is there any particular book or author that set the benchmark for you in a specific genre?

LeCarre, best espionage fiction
(his 'Honourable Schoolboy' gets my vote for best modern British novel as well as best spy novel ever written)
Dickens (Little Dorritt) best 19th C Brit Lit
Thomas Mann, ('Magic Mountain') best 20th C. pre-war European lit
Thomas Pynchon ('V.')... best postwar American novel
Melville's 'Moby Dick', best 18th C American novel
'Gatsby', best American novel (pre-war)
'The Friends of Eddie Coyle', best American crime novel (post war)
'Red Harvest' best USA crime novel (pre-war)
'The Last Good Kiss' modern USA crime novel
Evelyn Waugh's 'Black Mischief' best black comedy
Joan Didion, best American nonfiction essayist
Shirley Jackson, best American author 20th century (post-war)
Shirley Jackson, best horror novelist
Shirley Jackson, best female author all-time, USA.

...and on and on and on.

What was the catalyst for you to become a reviewer, and what keeps you going?

Just naturally gabby, I guess?

In your opinion, do you find the new titles original and creatively executed, or do you see more of a repeat of the same (think Hollywood's surge in remakes)?

Formula rules today's markets. Its depressing and shameful. Genre authors are one of three things:
1) money-grubbing
2) cowardly
3) Unequipped with the proper powers an author should possess

Its a dodge, a cop-out write in genre-fiction. It didn't used to be that way; but then in traditional publishing ruled by the Great Houses, your stuff had to be blazingly GOOD. E-authors copycatting each other's formulaic boilerplate templates and foisting it off on the unwitting public of today--via any unscrupulous and deceptive means possible--is a travesty.

Out of all the books you've read, are there any particular books or characters that stayed on your mind?

See above list in question #6.

What is the one review you are the most proud of, and why?

John LeCarre, 'The Honourable Schoolboy'.

I'd like to thank Feliks for playing along and sharing his opinions with me. If you have any comments, please share them here. 


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