Friday, July 06, 2007

7 Books Revisited

Apparently, I am a cheater. Fine, apparently my pre-justification of anthologies was not sufficient. I can live with that. And yes, I did count as one two books that are separate. I am suitably chastened. I'm also still a bit punch-drunk from the post-travel exhaustion haze and have decided that's a good state in which to do a new list. (I like lists when I'm having a hard time writing anything because they give a nice structure. Also why I like mystery novels.)

I call it 7 Books I Will Never Read Again and Wish I Hadn't Read in the First Place.

1. AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner: Not a Faulkner fan. Or a Hemingway fan. Or a fan of much American literature of that period. This is the only book in my junior-year honors English class that I did not finish but instead resorted to Cliff Notes. Boring. Depressing. And hard to follow.

2. MOBY DICK by Herman Melville: I did actually read this one through for that same honors English class. Even the chapters on sperm oil and blubber. But again, not my type of ocean novel. (Do I have a type of ocean novel? Now I'm wondering. I suppose if I did it would involve a pirate an awful lot like Jack Sparrow or Will Turner.) Oddly, one of my favorite novels of the last few years is AHAB'S WIFE by Sena Jeter Naslund. Naslund takes a character who never appears in MOBY DICK and writes a fascinating novel that actually made me interested in Ahab as a person. No small feat.

3. THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV by Fyodor Dosteovsky: I read this because I love his novel CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. So I thought I'd like this one. I didn't. I have decided if I ever have a fit of Russian novel-reading insanity in the future, I will just re-read CRIME AND PUNISHMENT.

4. RED AZALEA by Anchee Min: We chose this for book club because it was on a library reading list and "it sounds interesting". It wasn't. About a young woman in China during the Cultural Revolution, I quickly tired of the in-depth discussion of her sexual affairs, with both men and women, and found the prose very hard going. Maybe it was the translation. But no translation could help the fact that I didn't like the girl at all. Which made me feel guilty, since the author was the girl in question. Fine. I admire her pluck and survival. I did not enjoy her recounting of her life. The first of only two book club books I haven't read to the end.

5. THE RED TENT by some woman I don't remember and I don't care enough to look up her name : The second book club book I didn't finish. We've decided "red" in the title is a sure killer for us. A great concept--telling the story of Jacob's daughter, Dinah, and her twelve brothers from her point of view--but poorly executed in my opinion. I thought Dinah was obnoxious and whiny and, although I'm hard to offend, about the time the sheep made an immoral appearance, I was out of there.

6. THE MURDER STONE by Charles Todd: I feel guilty about this one, because Charles Todd writes a great mystery series set in post-WWI England featuring an inspector haunted by the trenches. But it's a miracle I ever got to know and love Ian Rutledge, because this was the first Todd book I read and it's awful. Another one of those "sounds great" books that doesn't live up to its jacket copy. Its a standalone mystery with wooden characters, stilted dialogue, leaps of emotional logic that left me dizzy and an ending that I just flat-out could not believe. And it violates one of the great rules of mystery novels--it raises a critical question that's not only not answered, it's not even considered again. Fortunately, Inspector Rutledge is much more satisfying. I think Todd should stick to the series.

7. There are so many that could fill this last spot--probably most of them read in my teenage years and most of them so mercifully buried in my mind that I can't even recall titles. (Though it surely included titles along the line of HER DEADLY SECRET or LORD HAMILTON'S LOVER or YOU CHOOSE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT IN THIS DARK AND ROMANTIC TEENAGE ROMANCE.) But in honor of Harry Potter month, I'll go with the last book in a long-running YA series which I've blogged about before: THE SONS OF DESTINY by Darren Shan. The worst ending of a series I've ever read. I wish I had quit reading halfway through. It has so scarred me that I've been having nightmares this last week about reading the last Harry Potter book and hating it because it had nothing to do with what came before. But I trust Jo Rowling, my heart is in her hands, and I predict that HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS will help heal my series-ending wounds.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

That's funny. Must have been Mr. Lindstrom's class, right? Or was it Rigby? My memory is failing. I tried REALLY hard to finish Moby Dick but I don't think I ever did.

As for As I Lay Dying...what a wacky story. I think I actually read that one. I'll never forget "My mother is a fish."