Wednesday, May 19, 2010


So, the first book that I pick up to read as a free, newly minted Master (this is never going to get old.  I'm going to irritate friends and family to no end with this one...), was a book recommended to me by a woman that I met during my internship.  She had recently graduated from the archives program at Western Washington University and is volunteering while she looks for a job.  She is interested in history.  She is interested in archives.  She reads.  She, as of a few weeks ago, was reading a book called The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova.  She suggested that if I like history, archives, reading and vampires that I would almost certainly love this page turner of a debut novel.  Anticipating my approaching academic freedom, I put a hold on this book at the library.  It arrives just as I am finishing my last week of school.  (Ha.  Last week.  Last week was last week.  Still can hardly believe it so I have to keep reminding myself.)

I start this 600 and something page book a couple of days ago.  By the end of the first paragraph I am already irritated.  You know that forced, or put on pseudo-European sounding formality of speech that writers use when they want to convey a sense of old world in a relatively contemporary character?  An American raised mostly in a diplomatic/academic environment, based in some quaint Western European village and traveling to cities, large and small, throughout her formative years?  Well, that's the tone of this book.  And it doesn't change as the voice of the narrator changes.  This worldly--but naturally shy, bright, attractive and resourceful--young woman is supposedly retelling stories that her father told her.  His stories are supposedly told in his voice and then shift to her account of how, when and why he recounts the events of his life... his mysterious and foreboding life.  I guess.  But it all just sounds like that fake, arch, I'm writing like a scholar would speak narration/description/tone/voice.  BIG YAWN.  Plus, it constantly reminds me of that other supremely irritating novel that caused such a big flurry of conspiracy theories, spin offs, History Channel/Secrets of the insert religious sect/secret society here shows.  O, and a movie and another book/movie.  (I read it to see what the big hubbub was all about.  I felt like I was constantly being patronized as the reader, like I was not cultured enough or smart enough to truly appreciate that author's breadth of world history/art/travel/experiential knowledge.  O, brother.)

After 75 pages of "GET ON WITH IT, ALREADY!", knowing that there were more than 500 to go, I realized that I was going to have to do a little interwebs research to see if this was going to be worth the slogging.  First review I read was the trusted New York Times.  Janet Maslin pretty much summed up my feelings and, by way of her concise prose, gave me permission to just put the thing down and move onto the other book that I got from the library that I've wanted to read since it was published, last year--T. C. Boyle's The Women.  I am going to open the cover on that as soon as I finish up this post.  Others, however, adored this book and simply couldn't put it down.  Even Maslin acknowledges that there are, occasionally, some jolts of excitement within the story.  I'll never know what they are, however, because I don't want to spend the next week trudging through various creaky, Eastern European villages in search of this Dracula character for one or two "BOO!" rewards.

Now that I don't have homework, I can also go back to listening to the good ole' turntable in a nice, pay attention type way.  This afternoon's listening pleasures:
The Human League--Dare (ahem, gate fold cover.)
Prince--Purple Rain

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