Sunday, April 25, 2010

Beginning to read a book

Some books just turn me off from the first chapter.


O]ne thing that occurred to me, just because it can break a book as far as I'm concerned, relates to the level of early uncertainty and early complexity. Not to put too fine a point on it, I like to know where I am and almost at once. If Brenda is who we start with, there better be something about who Brenda is and/or what her situation is from which the story begins. If, as is usually the case, Brenda is a person with connections to other people in the world, then as they come along I'm keen to know who they are and why they matter to Brenda or in Brenda's current predicament.

I have decided that I'm an intellectual lightweight and lazy as well.

I recently decided to read some books I had been unable to "get into." Very worthwhile books: Typhoon, Kim, The Charterhouse of Parma, and others.

I was unable to read past the first chapter of most of these. Actually, that is not quite accurate, because I read some of the Charterhouse and had to stop because Fabrizzio was such a dope I couldn't really care what happened to him.

I admit that my inability to finish these books is my fault, and not that of the authors. But I didn't want to read them then, and I don't believe I ever will.


Rachel said...

I haven't read the two others, but I found Kim to be unputdownable from the start. And it's so short, after all.

As for Norm's concern. Well, yes. Sort of. Norm goes on to say:

"If, as is usually the case, Brenda is a person with connections to other people in the world, then as they come along I'm keen to know who they are and why they matter to Brenda or in Brenda's current predicament. Suppose that on page one, a Tom is introduced but we're told nothing about him; and then at the top of page two we discover that someone once stole Brenda's diary, and it isn't made clear if this was Tom or some other person as yet unnamed. Two balls in the air. And then Kitty and Marmaduke make an appearance, one of them a cousin of Brenda's, but we don't know which one."

This almost certainly eliminates from consideration most 19th Century Russian novels. Not to mention Dickens who was always bunging a character in on page 27 who doesn't reappear until page 227.

Also, while I'm happy to get some basic info about Brenda from the gitgo, I absolutely despise it when the author stops all action to describe Brenda's strawberry blonde hair, upturned nose and freckles or what she had for breakfast that morning or what designer's clothes she's wearing.

miriam said...

Yes, yes, yes,yes.

What I particularly hate is when Brenda is a stand-in for the author and her not-quite-beauty is described in glowing terms. "Brenda's nose, perhaps a bit too short for conventional beauty, nevertheless lent animation to her face which was otherwise distinguished by her dazzling blue eyes and enchanting smile (See author's portrait on back cover.)"

Kim is short but it starts out with a bunch of people talking in dialect about, if I'm not mistaken, a railroad journey. Or maybe not.

i cannot tolerate dialect. See Thomas Hardy's peasants for reference.

I can barely stand it when "Robbie" or "Bobbie" Burns --and why not Robert for God's sake?--employs diaalect, although I've tried to rise above it in his case.

I can't

airforcewife said...

I'll try any book. But I still firmly believe that some books that are supposed "must read classics" for anyone with any pretentions to being a well rounded and educated individual are in the "Emperor Has No Clothes" category.

As in, they're awful, everyone secretly or not so secretly thinks they're awful, but whomever is responsible for making the Educated Booklist can't bring themselves to admit that for untold years people have been lied to about that particular book's worth.

I personally find Catcher in the Rye to be one of these books, but perhaps I'm just uncouth and uncultured.

miriam said...

I can see how Catcher would be a turn-off. I enjoyed it, but that was 50 years ago.

airforcewife said...

I loved Catcher as a teenager. When I read it as an adult mother of teenagers I was horrified.

miriam said...

I think it's the kind of book teachers assign. It has two qualities required by teachers: It's short, and has no sex.