You know, I think I’m going to have to stop reading literature for a while. For shame.
I finally finished reading Jonathan Safran Foer‘s Everything is Illuminated. This book started out very well for me: I really enjoyed the different perspectives it was written from (letters from the protagonist, Alex, to ‘Jonathan’; dialogue between the three main characters, Alex, Jonathon and Alex’s grandfather; and historical narratives spanning hundreds of years), and I got such a thrill from Alex’s wonderful use of Thesaurus English. It was ambitious and interesting, and I was impressed that someone so young achieved such a diverse work of fiction.
And then I got to page 200, and I realised that I had another hundred pages to go. I’d already had enough at that stage, and I was finding keeping up with the changing rhythm laborious. I wasn’t learning anything new from the narrative, and the frequent unpunctuated passages were becoming sore on my eyes. I ended up skipping through most of the last third, only stopping long enough to ‘get the jist’, just so I would reach the end. I did eventually, and my unfortunate response to that was relief rather than pleasure. Oh well.
Edited to add: I realised when I thought about it last night that this didn’t become a review of a book so much as a testament to my general frustration with literature. So here’s the ‘review’.
Everything is Illuminated spans about 500 years of Ukranian history, culminating in the Nazi invasion during the second world war. However [in]accurate the portrayal, it was interesting to read about a place not generally found in literature. I really enjoyed the story of Yankel and Brod from hundreds of years ago, and the more recent character, Safran, was certainly engaging, but I couldn’t help but feel that the Jewish stereotypes were shamelessly overplayed for little effect. It’s an easy trap to fall into, I suppose. And perhaps it’s even easier to get carried away when so much detail and information is being included in one book.
Before I read this book, I was told that it would take me on a roller-coaster ride of intensity and self-reflection. Alas, it did not. It did make me very bored, though, I can tell you.
I’m currently struggling to get to the end of The Dice Man, too, because I’m having the same problem: it just won’t stop.
The reason I’m citing for all of this: thesis-writing. When you’re trying to write a volume of 100,000 words, without using a single word more than you should (never mind whole sentences or paragraphs), it gets difficult to be bothered with tomes that seem to go on for miles more than they need to. I’m going to have to figure out what to do about this, because it would break my heart to be without my books at the moment. Or at any time, for that matter.