Eccentric Musings (jakaEM)

"I have undergone sharp discipline which has taught me wisdom; and then, I have read more than you would fancy." Emily Brontë


still figuring this place out - Jen W

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Friend of My Youth
Alice Munro
Progress: 115/288 pages
Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature
Margaret Atwood
Possession - A.S. Byatt Too much work for too little reward.

I read somewhere that if you pick up a book, and you're not enjoying it by either: a) your age (if you are under 50); or b) 100 minus your age (if you are over 50), you should abandon it and move on. There is too much to read and life is too short to be spent reading bad books.

I think this applies particularly to books in that grey zone, where you can tell the writer is winding up to something, and the style and story has enough ooomph in it to keep you powering on, despite perhaps your better judgement.

[author: A.S. Byatt]'s [book: Possession: A Romance] is definitely in that zone.

It's not that Byatt is not a good writer: she is. I am enjoying her eviscerating attack on the insular, political world of academia, with its serpent-eating-its-tail kind of irrelevance. The set-up of the grad student/teaching assistant/temp couple, living in a dank basement, banned from the garden, and feeding off of each other in passive-aggressive co-dependency was ... well, pretty much perfect (and hit a little close to home!) The send-up of feminist scholarship is priceless.

But it's all a little too much to wade through for just a taste of these morsels. It's too clever, and too complicated, by half. So far, I've got two major characters, two minor characters, a slew of tertiary characters including some that we see only through the eyes of the two major ones; two poets--who are two more major characters--from each of whom I am getting internal monologue, dialogue, and painstakingly-fabricated Victorian-era poems, letters, and academic research papers reflecting all of that. And these are rife with references, allusions and imagery from Victorian and classical times, both faux and likely real, but I just can't sort it all out and right now, I don't really want to. Oh, and we're on two continents, one convincingly, and one much less so.

I've given it to p. 108, and I'm still not sure that I won't come back to it. Perhaps a different season, a different frame of mind. This novel is likely, for me, like drinking single-malt scotch in the summer: sometimes I do, but I rarely enjoy it. I need a bracing cool autumn evening, or a blizzardy night, woodfire blazing, my faithful companion, Sutcliffe, the Beagle, by my side. In other words, I need to get into a rarified connoisseur's headspace and let the experience wash over me while I noodle away at it like a crossword.

I will put this one back on the shelf and maybe try again in January.