Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Books Not Making My Hit Parade -- October 2010

Throughout my life, I've always felt the need to finish what I started, whether I liked it or not.  It was only a couple of years ago that I realized that that credo does not have to extend to books that I am not enjoying.  What a revelation!  I do still sometimes persevere with a book that I'm not loving in hopes that it will get better, but I'm much better at calling it quits than I used to be.  Here are a couple of books that I would not put under anyone's Christmas tree:

--Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.  This tale of twin brothers born of a nun and a surgeon in Ethiopia goes on and on and digresses and goes on and on some more.  Life is too short.  I started reading this book in Nova Scotia, put it down, started reading it again, put it in the car with Jay to bring home while I did my little tour of the Northeast and, three weeks after the car left Nova Scotia, the book is still on the floor well of the back seat.  Enough said.

--South of Broad.  Boy, did I love some of Pat Conroy's books when I read them in my relative youth.  They seemed full of great characters and intense stories.  And the movie version of Prince of Tides was great (although I was always troubled by the way Barbra Streisand dressed in that movie--it didn't seem therapeutic at all!)  So, I was really looking forward to reading South of Broad, his first novel in many years.  Hated it.  Hated the characters, hated the overly dramatic writing, found it actually painful to read.  Donated it to a local charity for someone else to be disappointed by.

--Truth and Beauty.  Ann Patchett might be my all time favorite author.  Her writing is so beautiful and the stories are wonderful.  If you haven't read Bel Canto or The Magician's Assistant, get thee to a library or bookstore ASAP.   I'm not, however, loving Truth and Beauty, a non-fiction work about her relationship with Lucy Grealy, a fellow classmate at Sarah Lawrence (although they didn't know each other there) and the Iowa Writer's Program.  Grealy was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer when she was 9 years old and lost one-third to one-half of her jaw to the disease followed by years of chemotherapy and over 30 reconstructive surgeries.  I guess it's not surprising that she is on the screwed up side.  In the opening chapters, Patchett tells of their meeting in Iowa where they are going to be sharing an apartment.  They weren't friends at the time--just people who were coming together as a matter of convenience.  When Patchett arrived at the apartment, Lucy ran and jumped into her arms and told her how happy she was that she was finally there.  Huh????  As far as I can tell, they'd barely had two words up to that point.  I have to admit to probably being put off by trying to imagine what Lucy looked like.  In the book, she sounds freakish and is often wearing a bandage on her jaw.  When I looked her up on the web, she actually is not unattractive, although you can see her self-consciousness.  Anyway, I will persevere with this book and, who knows, I might change my mind and have to move it to a separate post if I enjoy it, but it does not have the same elegance and style of Patchett's works of fiction.

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