Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Book, Interrupted

I keep hitting roadblocks with Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides.

Delay #1: I started it, but didn't finish it before it was due at the library. I tried to renew it, but it turns out that 174 other people wanted it also, and the library wouldn't let me renew it. Why was it suddenly so popular, years after it was published? It turns out Oprah picked it for her book club. I thought she was concentrating on the classics now, but it turns out that was in 2004.

I've never paid much attention to Oprah's book club, though I've read several of her selections. The interview with Eugenides on her web site is really good. Though I'm not sure whether I'd bother to print my own Middlesex bookmark (PDF).

The book's unrenewable state meant I had to buy it. (Or keep it, and just pay the overdue fine when I returned it.) This last option seems not very library-friendly, so off I went to the Big Box Bookstore. Lucky for me, there were stacks of paperback copies of Middlesex, each with a big 20% off sticker. Thank you, Oprah.

While there I couldn't resist the tables full of remainders. Interestingly, every table seemed to feature several piles of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. That's that book that got the $2 million advance, but which no one seems to have been able to finish. (Personal observation only.) Does the fact that piles of unsold copies are now holding up the roof at B&N say anything to anyone? Just wondering. I did buy a few other remaindered books: Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel, and Servants of the Map by Andrea Barrett.

Delay #2: The ick factor (and it isn't even what you think). Middlesex starts off so well, really well, a fascinating, original story of a Greek immigrant family in Detroit. But now I'm stuck in this section where Cal/Calliope is figuring out his/her gender issues. This is extremely well done, for the most part, but why oh why must we have this extended sex sequence between adolescent girls that just feels so voyeuristic and exploitative? It's been going on for pages and pages and I know I could just skip it but it bothers me that he's even included it. It feels very out of place in an otherwise epic book, and I feel let down that Eugenides has resorted to this.

Delay #3: Eurocrime. First it was Jar City, and now it's another one, Darkness and Light by John Harvey. These are completely addictive. And Maxine has steered me to this Eurocrime web site where you can find hundreds more of these books reviewed. I can't seem to put them down. It's enough to make me try Henning Mankell again.

I don’t have a lot of plans for the 4th, so I should be able to finish the Harvey book tomorrow. Then maybe I’ll just hold my nose and skim that section of Middlesex, just so I can keep going.


Anonymous said...

How weird, I just read Darkness and Light! Excellent. Best of the lot for me for ages has been The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill, transceding genre definition I think.

And I have never even wanted to pick up the Historian! (or Labyrinth, or Dr Strange and Mr Morell or whatever it is called). I just feel this aversion to overhyped books. I only read Da V C because I was on holiday in Spain and ran out of books, and there were not that many English language books you could buy locally.

Anonymous said...

Ladies, "The Historian" is a very good book. I reviewed it (and I believe a line from my piece is referenced on the inner flap of the paperback). It's so, so much better than the "Da Vinci Code" -- mainly because Kostova can really write! My only problem was with Vlad -- he wasn't quite as bloodthirsty as one would have wished. I believe I said his marks looked more like hickeys on the necks of his victims than slashing, savage wounds. But, still. He loved books more than blood, which should be another reason y'all would enjoy the book.

I also highly recommend the Andrea Barrett book you bought. First rate historical fiction.

Becky Holmes said...

Susan, I really wanted to like The Historian. I was very excited when it came out. But the convoluted book-within-a-book structure was so difficult to navigate -- it took so long for anything to happen! I just couldn't stick around. I read hundreds of pages and never got as far as Vlad's appearance. I think, if it had been shorter and told in a more straightforward narrative style, it would have rivaled the DaVC, as it seems to have been intended to do. I was really disappointed by that book.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure (without having read it) that The Historian is a better book than DVC. The fact that I don't like books about vampires is a factor in my aversion to starting it: Susan, I am afraid your brief "aspect summary" has put me off even more -- hate the idea of neck wounds, the thought of it makes me feel ill. Call me squeamish. And try The Coroner's Lunch, a veritable modern Conan Doyle.

Anonymous said...

Maxine -- You like *crime* novels, girl! Isn't there a lot of blood (and wounds) in those? In fact, isn't it hard for you to read crime novels knowing that there's gonna be a murder described somewhere therein???

Becky, I have read so many l-o-n-g 19th-century novels with the book-within-a-book quality that I guess I didn't even notice.

For the record, I really hated the DaV Code. I was offended by how poorly written it was and the movie -- which I saw with my son, whose read all the D.Brown books -- was not an improvement.

Anonymous said...

Not "whose" but "who has." Sorry....

Anonymous said...

I do like crime novels but for the mystery element (puzzle) and character, and what you learn about different places and cultures. I don't like the gory ones that revel in pain and suffering.

Eva said...

I loved The Historian, as did my mom. But then, I don't mind convoluted story structures (I love Wilkie Collins, lol). I was v surprised to see stacks of it in B&N, but I didn't realise that it was a hyped book-my mom and I read it by chance, lol.

And Dr. Strange and Mr. Norrell is also a great book. Particularly with this one, it's really not at all fair to compare it to DVC. It's pretty much the polar opposite of DVC.

Post a Comment