Friday, March 30, 2007

Can't Settle Down

What a bad week. Here is a list of books that I've picked up and put down over the course of this week:

The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett. This is her first novel. I've read everything else she's written, and she hasn't come out with anything new in a while. Sometimes when that happens, I try reading an author's backlist, with mixed success. This book just didn't grab me, though it wasn't bad. But I quit after about 3 chapters.

Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants by Robert Sullivan, and American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center by William Langewiesche. Both of these were recommended by Nonfiction Readers Anonymous, who is organizing a book menage. Briefly, in a book menage, everyone reads a pair of related books (selected by vote on NonAnon's site) and discusses them in the comments on a certain date. It sounded like fun, but I wasn't interested in the titles that were selected (The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion and About Alice by Calvin Trillin; the first, because I already talked about it, the second because I'm waiting for the audiobook version of it). This other pair of titles was rejected by the voters, but I thought I might try them anyway. I got a third of the way through Rats and thought "wait, why am I reading this?" It was just a lot of information about rats in New York. Which you would think would have occurred to me. It reminded me of a long-ago family trip to an aquarium, where, 15 minutes into the tour my youngest turned to me and said "Can we leave? There's nothing here but fish."

The other book, American Ground, seemed like it would be good, but it started off with the last hours of the folks on the planes and in the towers and I found that just too sad for my mood. Maybe I'll try it again some other time.

As of last night I had read about 30 pages of The Night Watch by Sarah Waters. I may stick with this. I was determined NOT to read any more books about London during WWII for a while, but my library hold was about to expire on this, and I would have gone to the back of the line if I hadn't picked it up. It seems interesting, but I'm not sure if it will stick. Yesterday, as insurance, I also brought home Arthur and George by Julian Barnes and a Mary Balogh romance novel whose name escapes me.

And finally, the one book I read with any enthusiasm this week: Knit Two Together by Mel Clark and Tracey Ullman. When I had heard of this book, I thought, can it be THAT Tracey Ullman? and it is. I tried really hard last night to explain to my kids how funny she always was, but they don't know her. I had to resort to showing them the photo in this book of her knitted dreadlocks. Now that really cheered me up, especially the looks on their faces when I said I was planning to make some for myself.


Anonymous said...

Yes, I go through phases like this, too. I bought Cathy Night Watch for her birthday this year, as she's studying this period of history for school and will be again for A level next year. I also gave her Suite Francaise. She hasn't actually started either of them, but I picked up one the other day that she's started and seems absorbed in: Kommandant's Girl by Pam Jenoff. But oh, I've just remembered you wrote that you didn't want to read any more WW2 novels, sorry.

Anonymous said...

I've gone through books in just that way. Pick up, put down, pick up, give up. Indeed, sometimes I buy the *same* book twice -- sure that I will like it because I've liked other novels or short story collections by the author -- and then I discover that, no, I really can't get into this book and now i own another copy of it. (I just did this with Mary Gaitskill's _Two Girls, Fat and Thin_. I'm sure if I were at all interested in Ayn Rand, I'd gobble this novel up, 'cause I love Gaitskill's writing. But there's the Rand character, aptly named Granite, and I just can't get around the big rock of her/it.)

I love your kid's comment about the aquarium! My son (now 13) said something similar when we were at the Grand Canyon last year: "It's just a big hole in the ground." So much for awe and majesty.

Becky Holmes said...

But I think I do want to read more WWII books, because I keep picking them up. Maybe I'm just worried that my blog readers will be bored. It's such a fascinating period. And there's so much good stuff written about it.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Becky,
Oh, this happens to me all the time, but more often with fiction. I get that "wait, why I am reading this" feeling a LOT with fiction; with nonfiction, I always feel like I pick something up, even if I eventually have to abandon the book. Sorry to hear "Rats" didn't do it for you, and I can certainly understand not being in the mood for "American Ground." I'll be interested to know if you ever pick it back up again, and if so, what you think about it!

Thomas Hogglestock said...

If you can't tell from all of my comments today, I am new to your blog and I love it.

Knowing your love of Patchett you may want to try Patron Saint again. Taft was probably my least favorite Patchett. Then again life might be too short to go back a try a book you gave up on already.

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