Contrarian for Contrarian’s Sake

Paul Constant, writing in The Stranger, serves up a contrarian review of Black Swan Green: “Black Swan Green could prove to be Mitchell’s most acclaimed novel yet, although it’s clearly his worst. There is almost nothing exceptional left to be written about children. It’s all been said before….”

Really? So I guess anyone writing about kids should just throw in the towel then. Because children, just like adults, have no complexity whatsoever. Children are mere amoebas, easily programmable and readable by the adult units, often skirting the edge of the ocean floor.

Constant complains that one of Jason’s sentiments about the Falkland Islands “rings false,” but never explains exactly why. He complains that cultural references get “name-checked,” as if Mitchell has written an encyclopedia book instead of a novel. But if one is writing about an adolescent in the early 1980s, does not a reference to one of the hottest video games of that era (Space Invaders) make sense?

I’m all for contrarian criticism. Even though I’m a Mitchell fan, I actually think Black Swan Green has been just a tad overpraised myself. But if unsubstantiated bile like this is the order of the day, how then can an array of variegated opinions be established?

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