Sometimes a book slips into your life, and you read it, and it stays. You loved it, you love it, you read it again and you love it even more.
It’s taken me a while to be ready to write about My Abandonment, and that’s largely because I’m afraid I can’t do it justice. There’s not enough praise available for author Peter Rock’s accomplishment here, so I’m not even going to try. I’m just going to write about what the book does to me, and hope to describe its tremendous power.
Many compelling themes are layered into My Abandonment. That, of course, is part of why it takes hold of the reader quickly, and lingers for so long. There’s a lot to mull over, details and feelings that rise from one’s unconscious, days and weeks after finishing the book. Continue reading
I read the first two chapters of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom as excerpts in The New Yorker magazine. I could tell they were excerpts, rather than free-standing short stories, and both intrigued me so much that I wanted to read the book as soon as it was available.
It surprised me that I felt this way. The excerpts read to me less like stories than like a chatty letter from a friend. It was like hearing a breathless, gossipy description of neighbors that my friend didn’t really approve of, but couldn’t help being fascinated with. I had no sense of building up to some big event, but at the same time, I was curious about where the characters were going next.
As it turns out, the sensation of reading very detailed – and witty and insightful – gossip remained with me throughout the entire 559-page (in hardback) novel. Details tumble from Franzen’s overflowing cornucopia, in long flowing sentences and paragraphs. It’s not a slow read, despite the length – there’s an urgent, almost breathless quality to his writing that kept me reading, no matter what he was relating. Continue reading
I’ve never had much patience for novels that are all description and atmosphere, novels in which little or nothing actually happens. I’ve felt from time to time that a novel of that sort is one I should admire for its literary quality, but that hasn’t made these books any easier to read.
Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses has the whiff of that kind of book. At least, it did when I first started it, and I was initially mislead by the flow of long sentences, some nearly long enough to take up an entire page, clause upon clause, the narrator, Trond Sander, describing his house, the forest surrounding it, his neighbor, his neighbor’s dog, his state of mind – setting the scene in such an uninterrupted flow of words, I thought I was entering into the territory of Admirable Novels I Don’t Really Like. I was wrong.
I didn’t love Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro’s best known novel. I didn’t like most of When We Were Orphans, and I didn’t understand A Pale View of Hills.
Never Let Me Go is another matter entirely. I felt myself pulled immediately into the book, seduced by narrator Kathy H’s recollection of Hailsham, the boarding school where she was raised: “the football, the rounders, the little path that took you all around the outside of the main house, round all its nooks and crannies, the duck pond, the food, the view from the Art Room over the fields on a foggy morning.” The lovingly recalled details make the opening of this book feel like a cozy tale of upper-class English adolescence…..but it’s not.