I’m in danger of being thrown out of book group.
Not just thrown out, but ceremonially unbound, de-leafed, dust-jacketed, redacted, tossed on the remaindered pile, pulped.
Reason being, I tend not to like the books. Not even the ones I choose. (I mean – I’m a fan of John Steinbeck. He’s written some of my favourite books ever. But East of Eden? Yeuch. C’mon!)
The latest one is Absalom, Absalom! (So good they named it twice). Faulkner’s masterpiece. ‘The best novel yet written by an American’ (according to Faulkner). And sure – it looks good on paper. A civil war saga told from several viewpoints, each one as unreliable as the other. I think the idea is that you patiently peel away all the narrative layers and achieve understanding amongst the wreckage. Something like that. Which is fine, until you set to work, and find yourself overcome by layer fatigue. I’ve never read a book with such narcoleptic power. It didn’t matter how sharp I felt when I sat down, in just a couple of pages I was yawning and wondering what snacks we had in the cupboard. The febrile drama of the whole thing only made it worse. It was completely numbing, like finding yourself trapped next to one of the main characters on the bus, monologuing without end, requiring no input from you whatsoever, or any sign that you’re interested, or even alive. You’d have to pretend to faint to escape. And even then they’d insist on going with you in the ambulance.
Apparently Faulkner was influenced by Joyce. That doesn’t surprise me, having tried and failed to read Ulysses. I don’t know if they ever met, but I think they would have got on. Either that, or cancelled each other out, like two literary black holes colliding, disappearing into a prose singularity that swallows narratives whole, twists them up and splurges them out into an eternal parade of string people sitting on porches or horses smoking cigars, sipping whisky and bitching about Gettysburg.
Anyway. I’m just hoping everyone else is having the same trouble as me. My fear is they all completely love it, the immersive experience, the overwhelming, supersaturating drama of it. And pity me for my inability to engage with the passion and the poetry. And then vote to have me thrown out on my raggedy beginning-middle-and-end ass.
But at least I know what I’m going to choose next.
Farewell My Lovely.