Neither are the second, third, or fourth sentences.
Nor the fifth.
(I’m sure the later sentences are sterling, stunning stuff, but I’m sorry, I’m sorry, those earlier efforts couldn’t propel me onward).
Those blurbs: So thickly pasted in glowing praise is your novel that its spine I dare not crack.
Swarming with spiders. Scores of mean spiders. A horde, exploding from your novel’s pages.
Your novel is part of a trilogy.
Your novel is basically a fan fiction of a nineteenth-century literary novel.
Your novel is basically a fan fiction of a twentieth-century literary novel.
Your novel-memoir-thing is basically a blog.
All the ghosts in your novel are metaphors.
Ceaseless cyborg sex scenes.
Four chapters in, my only thought is “I’ve read this novel before.”
Your novel is in French.
Your novel is too good and I am too stupid.
Your novel is morally instructive.
Printed in pink ink.
I left it on a plane.
Your novel is upside down.
All of your characters have quirky hobbies; this I cannot abide.
Oh cool, a stranger comes to town?
Every verb attributing speech to a character is modified by an adverb.
Too few swamps.
Your novel is overtly engaged in social issues.
Your novel is about baseball.
Your novel is “erotic.”
Your novel is extraordinarily well behaved.
Your novel’s extended metaphor is too obvious.
Written on rope.
You are a conceptual poet with bad ideas and boring books.
You had me at Rags to Riches—but back to Rags again?! Not this time.
Not enough cyborg sex.
Your novel is a Word doc.
Your novel is part of a tetralogy.
Your novel was so goddamn excellent that it made my right eye twitch. As if it, my eye, were doing some manic jig. Then, my other eye—the left one—well, your novel was just so literary that that eye got to twitching something awful as well. By the second chapter, my eyes were fairly vibrating, and a clear but steady stream of snot was leaking from my nose. By the fourth chapter, I could no longer feel my lips, and by the beginning of chapter five, I was literally insensate. It took me months to recover, aided by family and friends alike. I will try your novel again when I am stronger.
I drank too much.
Your novel is filled with pressed flowers which I’d rather not disturb.
Deader, better novelists await.
600 pages of a woman brushing her teeth.
The main character is too likable.
Your novel’s extended metaphor is too oblique.
Your novel’s central character worries about poetry all the time. Poetry!
The batteries died.
I’m too cynical.
Your novel was a brightly-colored bunch of helium balloons—beautiful, sure—but I gave them to my daughter and she—almost immediately—surrendered the string to which they were tethered. Your novel is in heaven now, where it certainly belongs.
Your novel is about a math problem.
I gave it to a friend I don’t like.
Not enough chainsaws.
Your novel kept sending me to look up obscure references on Wikipedia, and the Wikipedia pages were more intriguing.
Oh cool, you backpacked through Europe?
You keep emphasizing how brilliant and intelligent and talented this character is, yet nothing in the prose harnesses that brilliant intelligent talent.
Your novel is extraordinarily well meaning.
Your novel is carved into the bark of a very tall tree atop a very tall mountain which I am too physically weak to climb.
Your novel is in Italian.
Your novel is too bossy.
Your central character is invisible, and yet no one is having any fun.
You’ve mistaken “imagination” for “research.”
Too much furniture.
Your novel is just the May 1968 issue of Playboy with your name written on the cover in Sharpie. (Okay, I did read your novel).
Magical realism, eh?
You are a brilliant young novelist, perhaps, but you’ve forgotten to read so many of the brilliant young novelists who came before you.
Your novel is made of poison, which is admittedly appealing, but which I fear will kill me.
Your novel’s characters repeatedly reference other, much better novels (by much deader writers), reminding me that those novels exist.
Pages and pages and pages of weather.
I tucked it under the wheel well of a stranger’s automobile.
All the Southern characters’ speech is rendered in bad phonetic transcription.
Did you buy these epigraphs in bulk?
Your novel is very clever and very unfunny.
Not lurid enough.
I left it out in the rain. It turned to pulp and became a temporary home to small suburban animals—do you find some measure of joy in that? No?
Oh cool, you backpacked across Southeast Asia?
Your novel is cursed.
Your novel is a sustained argument against breakfast, and I can’t get down with that.
Hero’s journey, eh?
The first paragraph is too good. I would only be disappointed by anything that came after.
I like my dirty realism much dirtier.
Your novel was actually a salad, so I ate it.
Having every other character be a Christ figure sounds like a cool idea, but it isn’t.
No dial tone.
Your novel is in Japanese.
Your characters earnestly cite long passages from philosophy.
Not enough orcs.
Your novel seems to mistake postmodernism, which is a description, for a prescription.
Your novel is “like X on Y times Z.”
Your “literary novel” fetishizes “genre tropes.”
I didn’t drink enough.
I’m just jealous.
The prose is too dazzling.
Look, we’ve all read Kafka, we get it.
Time is limited, life is short, ashes ashes we all fall etc.