Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe: What I read on my vacation: two books I didn’t finish, for very different reasons

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

What I read on my vacation: two books I didn’t finish, for very different reasons

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I used to never give up on a book, but that’s all behind me. Life is too short. And so, though it comes weighted with Important Critical Reviews and the Man Booker Prize, I got only to chapter 4 (that's 7% in Kindle-speak) in Howard Jacobson’s “The Finkler Question.” I was inclined to give it some sympathy because it arrived with the unfortunate label of “comic novel.” And, true, there were a couple of smiles and one laugh. But there was also a sense of --say it--boredom. It’s possible I may reopen it in the future, but for now, no thanks. I’ll be glad to hear from anyone who has read the book and wants to urge me to give it another chance.

The reason for closing the other book was quite the opposite. I had been looking forward to reading “The Known World” by Edward P. Jones and I still am. It’s just that, a single chapter into it, I knew this was not the time or place. The book is a strongly written and engaging novel about slave ownership by blacks in the antebellum American south. I was immediately drawn into it. But every time I looked up at the beach and the waves, every time I reached for another dab of 85 SPF sunscreen or another pleasant little snack, I knew this book had to wait.

Now back home surrounded by the rigors of a New England winter I will be able to give “The Known World” the kind of reading it deserves.

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4 Comments :

Anonymous Tom Freudenheim said...

Great blog. We're on same page (metaphorically speaking) on the Finkler Question. Bummer. Boring.

January 13, 2011 at 8:54 PM  
Anonymous Margaret Meehan said...

Ellen, Glad you plan to return to The Known World. It's well worth it.
Margaret

January 17, 2011 at 10:38 AM  
Anonymous sue ingram said...

I know just what you mean when you find a book that you know you will enjoy but have to find the right circumstances to be able to enjoy it. I read a rather large volume called "Agaat" by Marlene van Niekerk, who is a South African author who wrote this book in Afrikaans, being her 1st language, and I read the translated version in English - a beautifully translated version I may add. Slowly, savoring each paragraph, I made my way through the book, wondering if I ever was going to get to the end, but never actually wanting to give up on it. After finishing, I reflected on how much I had lived the book, how much I had really connected with the people and the circumstances in this fictional story. One critic described it as having "the sweetness and the cruelty of a vanished Afrikaans world evoked.."
I am not sure how appreciated it would be by those who don't know South Africa and its' people at all but I definitely connected intimately with all that South Africa used to be, from all its sweetness to all its cruelty. Mostly it gave new life and possibility to this country. But I still couldn't have read it on the beach in between sunscreen dabs!

February 11, 2011 at 7:30 AM  
Blogger Ellen Steinbaum said...

This sounds like a worthwhile read--thank you for mentioning it.

February 11, 2011 at 10:34 AM  

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