Thursday, October 15, 2015

Quick Lit • October 2015

I had to abandon a book recently (not the book shown above in the photo), and it devastated me.  In theory, it makes sense that life is short and that we should not feel obligated to finish a book that is either boring, awful, or frustrating beyond belief, but in practice, it's hard to walk away from a book.

I feel like I am insulting the author, or worse, in the case of this most recent abandoned book, I feel like I am admitting I'm not smart enough to handle it.  

I waited for months for The Country of Ice Cream Star to come in at the library, and I was so excited when I opened it (on Reading Day, no less), but all my hopes were quickly dashed to the curb.  The entire book - every single last word of it - is told in a form of (how can I put this without coming off as a complete jackfruit?) uneducated slang.

The author pulled off an amazing feat by writing an entire book in that form, but her artistry, her ability and her stunning premise just weren't enough for me to overcome my horror at trying to "hear" the book in my head.

Every evening for a week or more, I would steel myself to open it back up and try again, but each time, I would grow agitated within a paragraph and my horror only grew with each page.  Finally, I had no choice but to give myself a pep talk and put the book down for good.  I felt something like relief when I put it in the drop at the library and walked away.

Today I am linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share short & casual snippet-like reviews of the books I have read over the past month.

The Sweet Life in Paris is the hilarious account of an American pastry chef living in Paris, and all of the quirky, absurd idiosyncrasies of, as he says, "the world's most glorious - and perplexing - city." The book is presented as a series of vignettes with recipes. The author is an award-winning blogger and cookbook author, and so each chapter is told in the familiar tone and stand-alone style of a blog post. Highly entertaining and (literally) laugh-out-loud funny.

Pastrix is the spiritual memoir of a fascinating, irreverent, highly intelligent, heavily-tattooed female Lutheran pastor (fair warning: profanities make this an R-rated religious book). Nadia Bolz-Weber manages to show the truth of grace at the same time that she herself requires a dose of it from the reader. I was made uncomfortable while I read, which is precisely what I expected and hoped for, and, I suspect, is what the author also hoped for in the writing. Whatever you think of her, Nadia Bolz-Weber is doing important work and she just might be the shot in the arm that complacent religiosity needs.

I had to to jump ship on The Country of Ice Cream Star. Generally, I love post-apocalyptic novels, but this one has stressed me out for the first 100 pages, and life is too short. The issue at hand is that the book is told in slang, a heavy, nearly-impenetrable slang, and it's too distracting. I'm impressed by the author's ability to perform a linguistic trick of this magnitude, but I read books for the beauty of the language, for sentences that grab me and don't let me go, for turns-of-phrases that blow my mind, and sometimes, just for the way they take me to another (easier) place. This one is difficult to read and hard to understand, and my love of grammar is being stomped upon, and I'm frustrated beyond belief. Walking away.

The Gracekeepers is an ethereal, darkly fanciful story of a haunting, post-apocalyptic future in which the vast majority of the planet is covered with water, and only the elite live on land. One of the characters lives alone in a tiny house in a "graceyard" where she performs restings (sea burials of the boat people), and the rest of the main characters are part of a rag-tag traveling circus that floats from island to island. The ending is a little weak and rushed, but the rest of the story is absolutely lovely.

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