This sadly turned out not to be for me – unexpectedly, I actually got more out of Francine Prose. Prose’s work may have felt snobby, but it was passionate and honest; I don’t share her taste in Chekhov, but I understand her love of books. Leto’s work reads (perhaps unsurprisingly, given her background) like a snarky collection of blog posts for a select audience in on some joke that I never quite grasped.
It might just be some hidden cultural chasm – Leto snarks mostly about modern American literati who I’ve neither read nor aspired to read. But even her short-form snark – 3-word or 3-line demolition of a broader range of authors, books and their readers – didn’t make it across that gap. In the UK at least, we don’t have some hidden suspicion that girls who like Austen are bi-curious (huh?) so such jokes fell very flat.
While Leto is clearly well-read (not genre fiction though; she’s still enough of a snob that that’s the domain of teenage boys in black with unwashed long hair, apparently), her love for fiction eluded me, buried beneath the snark. Perhaps it’s all very loving snark – she and James Frey may have some longstanding Twitter flirt feud – but I couldn’t tell. I’m left with (snark alert!) an impression of her as the loud, bitchy one in the corner at parties, toasting you ironically for having the wrong opinions. Which is ironic in itself, given her opinions of such people.
I’d much rather have coffee with her Mum.