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ISO: My reading mojo

12 November 2011

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!

7 Comments leave one →
  1. 12 November 2011 7:22 pm

    Part of me dislikes giving up on books. I gave up on two this summer — The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield and Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl — but another part of me doesn’t want to waste time reading something I’m not interested in. And that part usually wins out. There are good books out there, but sometimes you really have to dig. A book can get all the rave reviews and awards in the world, but if it doesn’t do it for me, I don’t want to read it.

    You can do better than “not crap” and “wasting time”! 🙂

    • Peaceable Imperatrix permalink*
      12 November 2011 8:41 pm

      You’re right, Wil. I should just not feel guilty about it.

  2. Peaceable Imperatrix permalink*
    12 November 2011 8:40 pm

    OMG, I just read janet Maslin’s review of 1Q84. She hated it! And listen to this:”A word about packaging: The three volumes that have been collected for American readers in the composite version of “1Q84” hang together about as well as the three parts of Roberto Bolaño’s similarly published (and far better) “2666” did. Each of these omnibus books has bright, incisive passages interspersed with abundant filler. But there is no overarching narrative idea to make either book more than the sum of its parts, although in the case of “1Q84” there is a startlingly clever Chip Kidd cover to create an air of the irresistible. The actual text? Not so much.”

    Shoot. Maybe I shouldn’t try 1Q84 any time soon. (But it *is* 5 parts in 2666, not 3.)

  3. 13 November 2011 9:47 am

    I’m with you, it has been worrying me for some time. I’ve been an avid reader all my life, even when I was (in the early days of reading blogs and writing one) pretty obsessed with the internet for a while, and I also had a lot of work-related reading to do, a book had to be really not worth it for me to leave it unfinished and I’d read several a week. Now I have a string of unfinished books. However, the ones, mostly, that I have finished have been re-read classics – and that includes War and Peace, Vanity Fair, Crime and Punishment for example, in the past year, as well as the Sherlock Holmes novels, the Forsyte Saga, Huckleberry Finn and so on, for lighter reading. I have come to the conclusion that I have read too many disappointing, overhyped modern novels and that my subconscious has said ‘enough is enough.’

    • Peaceable Imperatrix permalink*
      13 November 2011 8:49 pm

      Yes, modern fiction is most often a big disappointment, isn’t it?

  4. 13 November 2011 11:43 am

    it ebbs and flows. i’m always reading several books at once, and what gets me going again is reading a nice pageturner. most recent one in that category was Admission. big and chewy, but an easy read – kept me up late.

    • Peaceable Imperatrix permalink*
      13 November 2011 8:48 pm

      Hmmmm, is this the Korelitz novel or the Thrasher one?

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