Thursday, November 15, 2007

careful as a hummingbird in daylight

I’m on a kind of reading sabbatical, taking time to read without kicking myself about how I’m wasting time not writing. Before I had kids I read a lot more than now, but what really slowed me down was writing. I remember giving my father - who’s a writer - books as a gift, and him telling me he’d try to get around to it. I always thought it strange that a writer didn’t read that much, but now I understand very well.

I’m reading mostly fiction. After finishing Ward Just’s The Translator, now I’m reading Reynolds Price’s Kate Vaiden, which is not bad. How can I say it… it’s very “plotty.” There’s a lot of “and then…” and “what could have prepared me for what came next?” You know within the first four pages that Kate’s father kills her mother and that Kate abandons her child as a baby. The character Kate is meant to embody resilience and pluck, but while I do sympathize with her most of the time, I find her a bit cold.

One feature of the writing that annoys me some is the frequent use of similes, which is done – understandly – to reflect the Southern dialect. Some of the similes are sweet, like “I filled with thanks like a rain,” or “I was calm as the pavement,” but it still bugs me when it’s done too much. Here’s an overdose from page 4 alone:

- …making that long trip on roads rough as gullies.
- …drive home to see my mother, bathed and nervous as a hamster.
- It was January and cold as igloos.
- ….fall afternoons when my mother would be blue as indigo.

Nevertheless, it’s not a bad book, just not especially my thing. I understand that the protagonist’s personal history makes her what she is (sometimes cold and inconsiderate). As with The Translator, I picked this up on my trip to the states; it’s a random found-browsing book. More than with its glowing back-cover blurbs, it won me over with its cover. A weakness of mine!

I’ve also been surfing the book blogs and have been blown away by how many books people read. I was reading one called by a blogger who’s read around 60 books this year. Then I clicked into one of her links to find a guy who’s so far read about 140! That’s inspiring, if unattainable. I’d have to quit my job and abandon my family, and I choose what I want to read pretty carefully according to my time budget (or at least so I console myself).

I am pleased that of the 10 books I set out to read at the beginning of the year, I’ve managed four, plus some that weren’t on the list. Some of those I didn’t read may go into next year’s to-be-read list, but maybe not. Dogmatic I’m not, and I’ve got a bunch of other ideas.


S. Thomas Summers said...

it's tough for me to read to. i get a few pages here and there. usually i am with my kids, my dog, my wife. when there's time to read, i'm to tired...kinda like sex. sex and reading...i do remember both to be quite pleasurable.

Valerie Loveland said...

The internet has reduced my amount of reading.

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