Recent reads, Patrick Rothfuss and Ruth Ozeki

Perhaps I am suffering from a sort of literary fiction overload. I’ve read loads of it over the summer but for the past 4-6 weeks I’ve found it very hard to read anything other than science fiction/ fantasy/ dystopia/ YA books. I’ve let my ‘pile of shame’ of books (literary fiction for the most part) grow and grow while I’ve downloaded and devoured a whole load of books on kindle and these have been mostly pretty bad but also pretty addictive. So as Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for The Time Being arrived in the post from Daunt Books, I thought it was time to go cold turkey on dystopia and get on with a ‘proper’ book, a recent release (those tend to sit on my shelf and by the time I get to them are practically considered ‘classics’) with all these wonderful reviews and a Booker shortlist to its name. Yes, well, I thought wrong (it’ll probably win the Booker now).

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I liked the beginning and then shortly after, I found myself slowly but increasingly irritated by it. I stopped just over a hundred pages in because the book just didn’t grab me and it all began feeling a bit contrived. I don’t know whether I will finish it, the thought of picking it up again is almost as irritating but I have read books that have irritated me in the past that I persisted with and was rewarded by afterwards, glad to admit my mistakes. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace is one example and Life A User’s Manual by Georges Perec another. So while being in two minds about Ruth Ozeki’s book, I downloaded yet another fantasy series – The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss and read it with a patience I don’t usually have for fantasy. I totally loved this – there was something Dune-ish about it (age + arc of the main character), something Lord of the Rings-ish (the languages, the songs), also something romantic about all that music, the adventures, the mythology and finally something distinctly George R.R. Martin-ish in the fact that I’ve now read both of the published books and have a feeling the third and final book will take Rothfuss a while. I would like to read it now please.

And the reason for my patience with The Kingkiller Chronicle is very simple – after a whole summer off history and non-fiction (thought I needed a break), I’ve a new uni course and a load of books on 20th century history to occupy me on the daily bus journey to and from work so can only read fiction in spare time. This morning, as I dipped into The Age of Extremes for a bit of research I realised I’ve totally missed Eric Hobsbawm. Perhaps my current book ennui is totally down to going cold turkey on non-fiction? Must learn to balance better and in the little spare time that I’ll have over the next 8 months, try to stay off silly books and silly books that think they’re clever.

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Just read, Parrot and Olivier in America, Peter Carey

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Slightly puzzled by this. I thought I’d enjoy it more than I did. It was mildly entertaining and I was hoping it’d be a riot. I’ve had this book on my shelf for a couple of years at least, bought it as it had good reviews. Not sure if I’d read any de Tocqueville at the time I bought the book or was aware that Olivier from the title was loosely based on Alexis de Tocqueville and his travels in America but it became obvious as I read on (I’ve read bits of de Tocqueville since). So, I suppose that made the book intriguing but as I read on, it just felt like the books’ ideas didn’t go very far or were fully developed. Perhaps it was the slightly flowery prose or perhaps it was the chopped up narrative that switched between Parrot and Olivier, some of it felt written for a comic effect that, to me, just was not very funny. Of the characters, I was more interested in Parrot and thought a book of his life would have made a far better read. What really puzzles me is how this got shortlisted for a Booker? Perhaps it was not such a great year for books and perhaps I’ve also been spoilt recently by some pretty great books that this really paled in comparison.