ISO: My reading mojo
I am in a rut. Part of the problem is that I have three ongoing books (no, I just realized, it’s four!). I know I shouldn’t have more than one going at a time, but I’m finding myself bored by the books I am choosing — even those I’ve been looking forward to for a long while.
I consider myself an SF fan, but lately everything I read I think it pretty weak (I could write something better than this, for crying out loud!). So I am going for more meaty stuff (I can’t stand chick lit and other bestseller fluff).
Now, the easy thing to blame would be the Internet, and I do blame my Web addiction for part of the problem. I agree that my attention span is much shorter than it used to be, pre-Internet; in this case, however, I’m finding lots of time for knitting, so it can’t be just the Internet and its brain-melting rays.
I enjoy beginning a book, and in some cases even love big portions of it, but then I find myself in a quagmire of words and I end up *making* myself read ”just 20 pages, dammit” so that I can eventually finish it. Maybe if I list them for you here (since they can’t go in my Books Read list!), I can start making sense of this problem.
A Time for Everything by Karl Knausgaard. I read a review of this book probably a year ago in the New York Review of Books and was intrigued. I had to wait because at first it wasn’t available in English; then it was, but only in hardcover, and I didn’t want to spend the money. Finally, it was in trade paperback, and I had some cash-on-hand at Amazon, so I ordered it. It is a strange book, and starts out feeling more like a nonfiction treatise than a work of fiction. But oh! when Knausgaard starts retelling some of the keystone stories of the Old Testament, what fantastic imagery he writes. It’s a mishmash of ancient story retold in a time-addled 19th century setting. But the emotions resonate. I’d recommend it simply for the retelling of the tale of Noah’s Ark. I’m in the end game, but I really don’t care about the Italian-searching-for-angels story which frames the book. I don’t care how the Italian died in the alps, so the book is sitting on my desk, slowly getting covered up by to-do lists and scraps of notes to myself.
I thought I needed something a bit lighter-going. Perhaps the heaviness of the latter chapters in Knausgaard kept me from enjoying it? So I bought The True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey. It’s the 2001 Winner of the Booker Prize, so it isn’t crap. And it’s about a time and place (Australia in the 1800s) that I don’t know much about. It’s fun reading … except when I start feeling it drag. I get it, I get it! Ned Kelly had a hardscrabble youth, he was abused by a corrupted social system, he became an outlaw. It has become boring, and he’s only 18 years old (there are thirty more years of him to go).
Another New York Review of Books issue, another article. This time on Roberto Bolano. It seems he is a crazy-famous modern author from Chile. I acknowledge that I hadn’t heard of him, and I was curious. So I borrowed 2666 from the library. I’m on my second renewal, it’s due in 10 days, and damned if I know if I will finish it in time. I loved the first (of five) parts, until it got a bit dull. Part two I just felt I had to get through. Part three was OK, and part four (where I am right now) is entirely made up of brief story-paragraphs about each woman/girl killed in a northern Mexican town in the 1990s. (I know, it sounds unpleasant, but it’s pretty good, truth be told.) It’s modern fiction, so I’m not sure there is going to be a resolution. That might be what is holding me back, I don’t know. I’d recommend this one too, even though I’m having difficulties. (Also, I figured this would be good practice for Murakami’s 1Q84, which is tempting me, even though it’s been published only this month and thus only in hardback.)
The last one I’m wasting time with is honest-to-goodness fluff. It’s Moonheart by Charles deLint. I devoured a ton of his fiction about 10 years ago, and I really like his idea of urban fantasy. In fact, deLint’s body of work is part of why I thought it would be super-cool to live in Toronto (that is, until I drove around it once and was completely turned off by the 10-lane highways. Blech.) This time around, I know his method, and I keep thinking, “I got it, enough character development — let’s get somewhere with this story!” Impatience is an unvirtue.
What do I love? Well, Trollope. But I’m afraid to pick up one of those, on the off-chance that my reading melancholia will taint Barchester.
I don’t mind working hard for my reading pleasure, in fact I prefer it (see: not liking bestseller crap). I just wish I knew what I could do to find pleasure in reading again.
This ennui is pissing me off!