Does anything sound as horrific and equally wonderful as “chocolate war?”
Does chocolate get to battle other chocolate for a place in my gullet?
Well… the answer is no, not really. It’s a book.
And chocolate doesn’t battle in the book either.
However, I make do and mend.
As you might have guessed, I started reading “The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier,
I am feeling a little irritated with myself because I just read the 1-star reviews on Amazon. (They are usually more entertaining than the 5-star) and now I know exactly where the plot goes.
I am still going to read the bloody thing though.
I am trying to jump back on the wagon of reading again. Man, when I fall off the wagon, I fall off.
But still. Those fucking 1-star reviews.
People can be so cruel. One reviewer said that it “isn’t worth the paper the it’s printed on.”
I’m not sure how that falls under constructive criticism.
But one thing I noticed about all the negative reviewers, is that they were all upset about the same thing. They talked very seldom about the plot, style and characters, and focused on the climactic ending.
Apparently one of the characters gets beaten to near death.
And everybody’s criticism was nearly the same. They found it depressing, and without purpose. In fact, people said it was absurd that such a situation could happen, and that the whole premise was ridiculous. People weren’t that cruel or afraid to act on their better consciences.
I’m not sure how the book is going to take me to that point- but if the book is giving me a dark soothsaying about how people fail to act against evil, I’m not sure that I can consider that depressing.
First of all. I don’t think the signature of bad a book is that it makes you depressed. You are supposed to have emotional responses to things you read. That’s why we read. So you can think! So many reviewers called it horribly depressing and cynical. Why is that a bad thing? Just because a book makes you feel something difficult doesn’t make it a failure.
Secondly, on the premise of disliking the book because the character seemingly suffers for no reason, I’d just like to say: Bad things happen to good people all the time and for no reason.
Third, I rather doubt the book is so cynical to say that “life is pointless and filled with selfish and hateful people. Those who are the most self-serving and manipulative will triumph in the end.”
I do not think it would have a permanent place as an American classic, if such was the case.
However, what I think the author might have been doing, is setting up conditions where we are given a look at how good people can fail to act.
If you think about history, systems of Fascism or dictatorships, genocides and the Holocaust, good people have routinely failed to act.
11 million people died in the Holocaust alone.
People fail to act every day against rape, against abuse, against hate. And the people who suffer through it are never guaranteed a golden ray of sunshine because people miraculously realize their blind eye has hurt them.
I don’t believe that good people will always fail to act, but like I think this book is trying to say, is that sometimes, for whatever reason, for whatever system political or religious- whatever- good people can and will fail to prevail against evil.
Sometimes I get pretty damn defensive over books.
If you’re going to criticize a book fine, go for it. But don’t tear it down because you can’t handle the ideas it presents.
Time to read some Foucault, Sartre, Camus, and Beauvoir, to accompany this chocolate war.