Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Books I were supposed to love - but hated!

Okay. I've accepted the fact that certain authors will write books I am not going to "get." Maybe to fully understand and appreciate some of these books the reader has to be able to reflect back on classic texts and make connections. I'll just go ahead and say it: I do not like these authors. These authors are not welcome on my nightstand. Granted, I have a bit of a handicap here which flavors my opinion - due to the informal drug education I received in high school (this was before my formal education in drugs at pharmacy school) I just don't remember any of the classics I read, or much of anything else. Still, when I think about these kinds of books, I wonder, what is it with all this pretense? What is our reading experience supposed to be about?

This is what I want when I pick up a book: a compelling story and characters that are believable (although they don't have to be likable). Maybe the elephant in the living room is that the "literary" books that flow from the publishing houses are like the rancid Passover crackers I whined about a few posts back. Sure, they had a nice box. Yes, they were kosher for Passover. My G-d, they were even WHOLE WHEAT! They must be good for me, I told myself. When I think about it, life is way too short to plod through a book to see if it gets good (it should already be good); or because it's supposed to be good; or because you will sound smart if you can chat about the book over lattes with your friends; or because you've already suffered through two-thirds of the text and feel committed to finish it.

So I tried to give 'The Infinities", by John Banville, the benefit of the doubt. I hung on for a little while but then I could stand no more of Adam and the chatting gods who look down on their pathetic world. And I gave "Where the God of Love Hangs Out", by Amy Bloom, even a bit more leeway. I remember suffering through her book, "Away", which had a strong Jewish connection, thinking there was something there I was not getting. The characters were as dimensional as spilled water; I didn't believe in them for a second. At the time I thought, this must be a writer's technique. I'm just not sophisticated enough to understand it. In WTGOLHO it was deja vu all over again! And the writing was very...studied. I read once that a writer's job is to get out of the way; in other words, the reader shouldn't be aware that a tortured, obsessive writer is conjuring up these sentences; the writing should be invisible. Maybe it's just me and what's left of my LSD-addled brain, but I'm going to label these books the elephant in the living room - the books we think we're supposed to like, the books that everyone tells us are supposed to be good for us, but are just Bad Books!

Enjoy your celebratory end-of-Passover pizza! Then find something GREAT to read!

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