For most of this past year my books and I have had polygamist marriage difficulties.
Perhaps its my fault – studying and working more and spending the rest of my spare time hanging out with my mates and playing video games (because don’t I deserve some down time?) that I barely have the time or energy to dote on one book let alone four or five.
But do they not have some part in the drifting apart also? Perhaps they’ve lost the spark that kept me interested – I don’t see them making an effort to pull us out of the rut!
However, despite the disconnect I still held hope. I continued to carry a book or two in my bag, hoping that I would reach for them rather than my iPod or Nintendo 3DS mistresses on my commute. I tidied the pile next to my bed so they would look more alluring, but alas, I was usually sleep-bound before I could even glance their way.
And then came the Blue Book Affair which shocked me out of my reading rut and got me on track. I returned once more to a book I had been neglecting and pussy footing around for months – Freedom by Jonathan Franzen – filled with a new determination to finish it and finally have room for a new read. After a few days of dedicated reading I got through the last few chapters and was left with a dilemma that I am rarely faced with when reaching the end of a novel – I didn’t like it.
Despite having a wide range of interests when it comes to what i read, I pick my books carefully and usually will only start something if I’m fairly certain that I’ll enjoy it (whats the point otherwise?), so a book that fails to engage me is a surprising and distressing experience. I was especially surprised when it came to Freedom. Objectively it looked like it would be a quality read – a family epic spanning decades, which I usually love; it has won, and been nominated for several awards; the author has been highly praised; when the book came out in 2010 it was a hit; and it was even on Oprah’s book club (hmmmm maybe that should’ve been a warning – me and the Ms O don’t always agree) – but as much as I tried to like it I ended the experience with a feeling of relief rather than the usual mix of satisfaction and sadness I get when reaching the end of a good book.
I will elaborate in a future review (which will be one of the only negative ones I have written since the inception of Book Polygamist) but in short while Franzen is obviously a talented writer, and several plot points and subject matters had me interested , I just did not engage or empathize with the primary (or secondary) characters in any way. If I had identified with or even just liked even one or two of the half-a-dozen or more central characters (or even felt a satisfying loathing), this book could’ve been a winner, and as with the general book-reader marital problems my isolation from the characters could’ve been my own fault – perhaps I was not the target audience, perhaps if I lived in America I would’ve connected with their political beliefs etc etc – but whatever the problem was i just wasn’t feeling the love.
Since I finished Freedom I have read quite a few reviews online and have found amongst the waves of praise many people who were left with a similar disappointment, so at least I don’t feel like I’m being unfair but I still wanted to shake it off, so to speak and jump right back on the horse (ah! mixed metaphors! they’re like a squeaky wheel that kills two birds in a bush…that are catching worms early…or something).
I did this by first picking a book from my small Library-Books-To-Read pile (using my usual process) which was The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff (which I was excited about because I have borrowed it a few times in the past but had to return it and I also like the coincidence of reading another book with Templeton in the title so soon after The Templeton Twins: have an Idea)
And then I amped up the Cleansing-Bad-Book-Experience-With-Better-Books by starting The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 😀
and putting another one of my reads – The Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian in my bag to read on the bus (a strategy that actually worked this time as I had finished the remaining 3/4 of the book over three days of commuting).
By the end of last week I had finished The Secrets of Eden and The Hunger Games, plus I have gotten more into The Monsters of Templeton and two of my other current reads: Pyramids by Terry Pratchett and the Neo-Noir anthology, Blood, Guts & Whiskey which I have been meandering through since May, so perhaps in the world of book polygamy, a few short affairs can salvage a rocky relationship 🙂
I hope all my Bookbaggers have enjoyable reads on the go, and as always I bid you: