Posts Tagged ‘Siri Hustvedt’

11th Decade Roundup!

It’s that time of my reading life again, where I review the last ten books I read, pretend I can remember them all, and then take stock of what happened. It’s also that time of my blogging life where I’m incredibly frustrated because WordPress has eaten three of my blog posts in the last two days. C’mon, guys, get it together.

This was a pretty good batch of books. It was a good mix of books I knew I’d enjoy, books that were just enough of a digression from my usual taste to be a challenge without being annoying, and books that I really liked but never would have read otherwise. It’s pretty much what you’d want in a book grouping.

I started out with What I Loved, which was fine while I was reading it, but very much on the “meh” portion of the scale. It wasn’t awful but I didn’t love it. I’m glad I read it, I suppose, but I doubt I’ll read it again. Another book in the category of, “glad I read it, now let’s move on” was The Girls of Slender Means. It was more enjoyable than I expected it to be, but I’d be surprised if I ever revisited it.

Then there were the books about two very different boys who were actually pretty similar, in some ways. Huck Finn is always a classic, and if you dialed up Huck’s delinquency and sense of adventure and combined it with a bit of crazy, you’d have Francie Brady of The Butcher Boy

Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye was a bit of an emotional read, but it was okay because it was followed by two zany books by Douglas Adams. It’s always fun to revisit Dirk Gently and his friends, and it’s even more fun to try and explain what you’re reading to people who don’t know Douglas Adams.

Finally, I was thoroughly sickened and shocked by Lolitabefore being captivated by some Murakami magic in Kafka on the ShoreI rounded out the bunch with the amazing Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions. I think Vonnegut is swiftly becoming one of my favorite authors.

My favorite book out the batch was definitely Breakfast of Champions. Vonnegut knows how to spin a phrase and play with language at least as well as Douglas Adams does, but there’s something about the way he weaves chaos through order and brings crazy insights into his work that I adore.

The reward for biggest shock goes to Lolita. I went in with bravado thinking that I was prepared and certainly wouldn’t be shocked like all those prudes who are sickened by books about sex. I was wrong.

And the book I liked the least was probably What I Loved. Like I said, it’s not that I didn’t like it, it’s just that it didn’t do anything for me. Not every book can.

Now I’m off to (hopefully) catch up on my post for the next book, House of Leaves, assuming WordPress stops eating my posts.

Book #101: What I Loved

Have you ever read a book that don’t mind while you’re reading it, but once you finish you feel sort of glad that it’s over?

That’s how I felt with What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt (who, by the way, is married to Paul Auster). It’s one of those novels that I think is almost pretentious, but isn’t totally pretentious, kind of like White Teeth or something by Jonathan Franzen.

(That said, it’s been recorded on this blog that I didn’t care for White Teeth and do not like the one book I’ve read by Jonathan Franzen.)

The book is about love and friendship, told through the eyes of an old art historian, looking back at his family’s relationship with another family. There is a lot of pretentious talk about art and literature, since the four adults in the novel are all writers, artists, or academics.

One of the men is a controversial artist in New York City, and Hustvedt takes great pleasure in describing all of his works in great detail, like she’s painting a picture of the paintings, sculptures, and other works he’s created. Often these descriptions were long and indulgent, and often they lost me. I’m not a very visual reader. I don’t often actually picture things in my head as I read, so pagelong descriptions of paintings or dioramas added little to the story for me, although I guess maybe they do for people who are really visual readers who are good at visualizing things they read about.

Also, I felt like the last section of the book was really unnecessary. Of course, this is when most of the plot actually happened, but for some reason it felt like it didn’t connect well with the rest of the book.

That sounds painfully vague, but it’s one of those character-driven books where there isn’t much plot, and the plot there is is really hard to succinctly describe.

All in all, I’d say that What I Loved is okay while you’re reading it, but I didn’t really take anything away from it, either positive or negative.

Rating: ***
Up Next: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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