Thursday, August 13, 2009
Life is too short for bad books or bad wine...
I haven't read one I thought was really bad in a while. Here's an excerpt from a post a while back about an ARC that clearly falls into the worst book category for me:
Several weeks ago I was waiting for my friend, Mary, at a bar. Great wine list and killer chili-covered almonds. A guy walks in, 50ish, sits down, looks around him, spots a nicely dressed woman who is reading, loudly orders a drink, and in what I assume was a completely failed attempt to pick her up insults her book, makes embarrassing comments about her hat and his ex-wife, brags about how anti-intellectual he is, talks about how much money he has, and yammers on refusing to take any kinds hints that she had no interest in talking to him. It was three-quarters of an hour before he finally stumbled back out into the cold and the entire bar applauded the poor woman and bought her another glass of wine. The Forgery of Venus is that guy.
The egoistic, cazh (as in cazhual) voice takes way too much for granted. In the first three pages Michael Gruber manages to make snide, insulting comments about New York, come up with the following description for another character's parents: "They were actual refugees from Hitler, with dense accents, almost parodically overdressed..." what does he mean "actual" refugees? Are there people out there posing as refugees? Or has this character actually never seen one before? Are the dense accents a problem for him? Clearly their style of dress is terribly amusing in some way that eludes me... This narrator finally leaves around page twenty or so and another character takes over. It is like walking out onto a breezy terrace at an unbearably stuffy party. The second voice, that of the "artist" in the story (dare I guess the forgerer?) is far more convincing. I stayed with him for a while - but unfortunately by that point the story had taken me too much for granted and had lost my interest. Actually he had never had it to begin with and didn't consider capturing my interest to be part of the job, he assumed he was owed it, like the guy at the bar, and since I was not waiting for my friend I could walk out on this story. I am sorry to only because I was given this copy so that I might share my reactions with you in advance of its official release and I wanted to find something nice to say. Well, that second narrator is better and perhaps if you stay with him you will end up liking the story. I don't know. Furthermore, this book is marketed as an "intelligent" and "sophisticated" thriller in the vein of The Da Vinci Code which I did read and kept my interest on a flight to California. If mentioning Velaszquez, Beckett and Columbia University in the first ten pages are supposed to earn this book its intelligence - think again. The story seemed fascinated with fanciness but its art seemed solely in the service of bravado and is anything but sophisticated.
I feel as though we trod the worst book territory with a BBT question in May when we were provocatively asked if there was a book we wished we could un-read. So I'll re-post that response too:
In college I had to read Sartre's Being and Nothingness for a class on existentialism and I found it the most incomprehensible, solipsistic drivel I had ever come across and threw the hefty volume across the room. By the time I was done trying to finish it, the book was split in two. Of course, I could not claim to have come across all that much in my vast 18-years of experience and Dickens's Bleak House is a case in point. I read that book that same year in college. I also hated it and never finished it...then. I have since read it and raved about it here, here, here, here and here, which is among the reasons that I would never go so far as to wish I could 'unread' something. I was a young person of strong opinions. I am now a somewhat more middle-aged person of strong opinions, but I don't find myself wishing to unread books. Just about the only experiences I would wish to un-have are things I regret having said or done to other people. And I guess there are a couple of plays I acted in that I wish I could unrehearse and unact! But unread? No. I don't waste my time reading books I hate. I simply put them down, knowing I can always try them again later if they are supposed to be worth it, and see if my taste or my patience has changed. Life is too short for bad books or bad wine. If you don't like the way it tastes, pour the sucker out or use it to marinate a London broil and open a better one!