Archive for January, 2013

Missing the Literary Bandwagon

January 13, 2013

Isn’t that a wonderfully snooty expression, “literary bandwagon”? Am I not just so intellectual?
All right, so I’m not. You saw clear through my little charade.
Maybe if I was more of an intellectual, I’d be one of the many who rave about the following books, whereas instead I am left bewildered as to what all the fuss is about.

“Push” by Sapphire. I read this one twice. It’s the story of Precious Jones, an overweight, illiterate teenager who had her first baby, fathered by her own father, at age twelve. It is a pretty famous and acclaimed book and was made into the movie “Precious.” The book was hard to put down, I’ll admit to that. It’s shocking, sad, graphic, and hopeful. But after those things wear off? I just didn’t like Precious very much. I was sorry for her, and I was glad she learned to read and got away from her crazy parents. But at the end she was still the same Precious in a lot of ways, still ignorant, still a bigot, only now she could read books and write poetry.
I think my main reason for not raving over “Push” is that it is basically just another of those “Troubled kid saved by a love of books” deals. This genre is closely related to the “brave new teacher saves ghetto kids.” The characters in “Push” are stereotypes, with not as much depth to them as it first appears.

The Bertie Wooster and Jeeves stories by P.G. Wodehouse. I can summarize these stories very quickly and neatly:
Bertie is rich!
Bertie is lazy!
Bertie is helpless!
Bertie is afraid of having to get married!
Girls are always trying to trap Bertie into marrying them!
Bertie’s friends are just like him!
They all use lots of British slang!
Jeeves is Bertie’s valet!
Jeeves knows everything!
Jeeves will save Bertie and his friends!
And he’ll do it without using slang!
Thank you, Jeeves, old sock!

Jeeves is almost robotic in his correctness and Bertie is cartoonish in his infantilism. Together they add up to a big disappointment.

“Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov. I read this one on the recommendation of a friend who thought it was brilliant. I guess if brilliant means using all kinds of literary in-jokes and showing up your reader’s ignorance, then yes, “Lolita” is brilliant. But I thought it was obnoxious. Humbert Humbert is not only a pervert, he’s the literary snob’s literary snob. Lolita is a brat, and I found it difficult or impossible to feel much sympathy for her. Those two deserved each other.

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. I didn’t get very far with this one. All I came away with was “Whaaat? Huh? Am I missing something big here?” Yet everybody I’ve talked to who’s read it acts like it was the best thing they ever read.

“Archy and Mehitabel” by Don Marquis. I really thought this was going to be a fun book. I mean, how could the writings of a smart-alecky cockroach be anything but a riot? The trouble arises because Archy, being a roach, types by diving headfirst onto each typewriter key individually, which means he can’t make capital letters or most punctuation, so his writing is a total jumble and very hard to follow. For me, this just drains the fun out of the whole exercise.

They say not to judge a book by its cover, but as you may know by now, I don’t always agree with what “they” say. Therefore, I have no plans to ever read the Twilight books or the 50 Shades series. And “they” can’t make me
*Ghostess makes a quick and furtive exit as black helicopters circle overhead*

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