Monday, December 20, 2010
On the top of page 7 this book’s narrator describes a woman named Lila Finkel as having "a cunt of pure gold." Wow, that’s pretty extreme. We are only on page 7. I barely know this narrator; this is our first conversation, and the first I’ve heard of Lila. If I met a guy at a party who described his friend Lila that way, I’d get away from him as fast as I could, and think “what a creep.”
Now if that description of Lila had emerged from a character’s mouth instead of from the narrator my reaction would have been entirely different. I would have sailed right over it, and internalized the intended message “the person speaking is crude and uninterested in whether or not he offends.” But it came from the narrator’s voice and it said to me that this narrator doesn’t care if he offends me, and in fact, he probably isn’t even talking to me. He is probably picturing his reader as a man, his frat brother, his drinking buddy, someone with whom he can casually toss around a word like that with no thought of giving offense. Or maybe I am being too nice, maybe he pictures his reader as a woman too, and he wants to offend her, he wants her to be shocked. What’s going on with that?
Either way, I’m not going to listen. Yes, I am offended (what of Lila’s lips, her voice, her attention to detail, her excellent golf swing?). And really I just want to get away from this weirdo who describes women using crude names for their sexual parts. I’m not going to keep talking to him just to be polite, and I’m not going to keep reading this book just because someone else thinks it’s good. Maybe this narrator is an okay guy, and can tell an interesting story, but his utter disregard for my sensibilities (or his deliberate attempt to shock me) just put me off completely.
This was my book club’s December selection, and I complained about it in this post. I skipped the meeting for reasons unrelated to my dislike of the book. But what did the book club think, you might wonder. When I asked Elana how the meeting went, she replied that she thought it went well, though they “spent a lot of time talking about whether there was any redemption or if the book was just utter darkness. “ Whoa, utter darkness AND creepy weirdos. Get me out of there.