Liza's Reviews > Moo

Moo by Jane Smiley
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's review
Oct 31, 2012

did not like it
bookshelves: will-never-finish
Read from July 08, 2011 to October 31, 2012

I tried to read this book for more than 3 months. I rarely quit on books, but I couldn't torture myself anymore. I really did try to finish reading the whole thing, but after today I realized whether I read 25 or 100 more pages (I stopped at 190) my feelings towards the book would never change. In fact this has got to be the worst book of all time, or in all fairness, one of the top ten worst books of all time.

The problem is Jane Smiley is trying to do too many things at once and she isn't successful at any of it. She is juggling too many characters in one book and none stand out, no matter how hard Smiley tried. She does attempt at creating this snobbish tone along with a sense of humor that only the educated and the elite would appreciate, but all of the jokes never fire off the correct cylinder.

You can tell that Smiley is informed of the politics that occur within education, but she never is able to capture the feel of this esteemed institution. Working in education you realize it's an odd mix of insanity, idiocy, hilarity, and compassion which Smiley fails to capture. All of her scenarios always feel contrived, which makes her lose at her ultimate goal, which is to display utter wit and wisdom about the characters, situations, and the college institution. This is most evident, when she tries to make wise observations of racial significance and she always fails. Someone unaware of what she is trying to do would think the material as racist, or worse, question her intentions. However, I think these are all the marks of a story that failed to meet its objectives.

I think Smiley had a grand idea as education is one of those areas that needs to be demystified, but she wasn't able to pull it off well. I do have another book of hers I am willing to read as I scanned it briefly for a college course. (Which, I'm sure a character in Moo would have had a lot to say about my skimming through a required read in college.) It's just disappointing, because there was so much that she could have done, but none of it worked in her favor. In fact all of the negatives are so high that it overshadows her main positive, which is her willingness to write about so many characters and discuss college, the students, and their faculty members with humor as it should have resonated with me, but failed time and time again.

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Reading Progress

08/18/2012 page 18
4.0% "That first chapter was painful."
09/09/2012 page 40
9.0% "This book is determined to torture me."
09/16/2012 page 40
9.0% "I keep refusing to pick this book up."
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