Monday, September 8, 2014

Mondays on the Margins: Bookish Dilemmas

This was a weird summer for reading. Not that I stopped reading, or read stuff backwards, or, God forbid, finally read Trollope (I did actually stick the one Trollope novel I own on my bedside pile at one point. Then I picked it up and realized that it was the second in the series I meant to start with, and I had only bought it because it was pretty and on sale - then I did, in fact, put The Warden on my Kindle, when I found it in the Kindle store for ---- wait for it --- 0.00 dollars. But I still haven't started reading it). I just felt kind of scattered, read a lot of short stories and skipped from book to book, reading widely but not deeply. Which, now that I look back at some previous posts, seems to be how I generally read in the summer, so maybe I should stop being surprised.

I had three or four books that I had bought instead of borrowing from the library, chiefly because I meant to read them in the summer - outside, preferably. It didn't happen. This isn't a bad thing - I generally felt like enough exciting and amusing stuff was going on that I could wait until there was a lull in the activity, and if that didn't happen until the kids went back to school, well and good. Except every now and then, I look around at the piles of books in my bedroom and, instead of feeling the pleasure of anticipation, I just feel overwhelmed and anxious. At one point, I actually found myself wishing that I could just pick up each book, stick a finger on it and immediately download the contents into my brain, then move onto the next. Then I was horrified - how does that have anything to do with the joy of the reading experience? The point isn't supposed to be to take a book and just be done with it - it's a process of discovery, and time, and unfolding.

So I made myself sit down for a few days with one book, and stay with that one book until it was done. And it felt like a type of therapy, and it worked.

My other dilemma is that the third book in Lev Grossman's Magicians trilogy is out. This is the book that I loved and it seemed that everyone else hated, until I finally found a few people who felt the same as me. Oh hey, look, I asked the author a question on Goodreads and got what I thought was a really good answer.

Lev Grossman answered your question
I adored The Magicians, but the first five or six people I lent/recommended it to after reading it hated it - they found the main character unlikable, which has never been a deal-breaker for me, but apparently was for them. Was it actually your intention to create an unsympathetic protagonist and see how that worked, or do you think (like I kind of do) that my friends are just tripping?

Believe me I get that a lot. There's no better way to create a deep schism down the middle of any book group than to read The Magicians. But I can honestly say that I never thought about Quentin's likability or un-likability while I was writing it. I wanted him to feel psychologically real, that was all. 

The thing about Quentin is that he's depressed, and like a lot of people who struggle with depression (me included) he sometimes has trouble focusing on other people's feelings -- he's using up all his resources just trying to keep himself going, and it makes him oblivious to other people's needs. Which is annoying. So I don't really think your friends are tripping. Probably they're just looking for something from The Magicians that it wasn't designed to give.

Anyway, I loved the first book, had no idea it was destined to be a trilogy, saw the second book, read it and again liked it and thought it had no need of a follow-up - hey, I just realized that THIS is the kind of trilogy I like: the successive books are welcome, but not necessary. So now the third book is out, so I requested it from the library, and got it much sooner than I expected, but I kind of think I should return it and wait until I've reread the first and second, and then borrow it again or buy it, because the odds of me getting it from the library at the right time again are slim. 

So to sum up, I had such a great summer that I didn't have time to read a lot of demanding classic literature, and now I have my hands on a book that I really want to read. Poor me! 


Nicole said...

Making notes!

I've been reading a series of books by a very acclaimed author, and I'm finding it tough going. The writing is excellent but the subject matter is so depressing. I mean, it's good to read realism, and it's autobiographical so it's GOOD to learn more about the world, but MAN OH MAN. I need a happy book for a while.

Steph Lovelady said...

One of the things I love about the kids being back in school is having a dedicated half hour (sometimes more) to read each weekday. It gives me something to look forward to every morning.

Also, there's book club. It doesn't stop over the summer but it slows down. We're doing Nadine Gordimer's The Conservationist this month and starting Don Quixote next month.

Courtney said...

I have the first Magicians book.... it has been sitting on my TBR for a couple of years now. Whoops. Now I'm more intrigued than I had been and may actually bump it up the list...

Maggie said...

I loved both the first and second books although man did book 2 take a turn for the super dark there for awhile. Just got the third from the library. I also seem to be alone in my love of these books. Husband, who usually digs most of the same books I do, really didn't like it. Depressing. I can hardly wait to dig into the third book!

H Munro said...

I had a crazy successful summer of reading. What might have been a disaster, bringing one book to the cottage that I was more than halfway done, was solved by a quick trip to Picton and the charity shop.
I brought back a stack of books that were 25 cents each. I am still working my way through them. One thing, I did not like The Alchemist and had to skim it to get through it.