With each book I take from the shelf and begin to read, a pattern emerges. These books deal with difficult topics and a hard look at the reality of life. While they are compelling, beautifully written works, they are not for my current mood. And perhaps they never will be, and this is why they have remained on my shelf, some for years. Maybe no one ever is ready for a book like that but we read them none-the-less not for the experience but for the knowledge they impart. I am the first to acknowledge that much can be learned from fiction, and now there are studies that fiction is good for the brain. It is books such as these that had made my 2012 reading prerogative a greater challenge, since though I want to read them, they are hard to want to pick up.
Oddly enough, The imperfectionists: a novel by Tom Rachman has been just such a book. At first, I was quite excited by this book, though the opening story is one that’s hard to swallow because I felt for the character so much, and the rest aren’t much easier.
It’s an odd, compelling, delightful book that presents short stories that are closely linked to each other so the further along in the novel you get, the more you learning about other characters from previous stories; it’s a novel in which everyone takes the stage at some point to tell their tale and adds more to the over-arching narrative. This is Rachman’s first novel and it’s a delight because his writing is fresh and takes a new approach in unfurling the story. He creates tension at times that compels the reader to keep on, to the point in which I lost track of time and pages–always a fun thing! Yet, some pages are more slowly turned than others.
Halfway through, the stories are quite depressing and sad. Each character has some sort of letdown or unfortunate situation to deal with, many of which are left hanging it seems, and thus so is the reader since the next chapter takes up another journalist from the group of co-workers and his/her circumstances. Right now, it’s not exactly what I want to read about. The writing is brilliant and the plot is engaging but this novel will return to the shelf, for the time being, with its bookmark securely in place for later in the year.
Why was this one on my bookshelf to begin with? I’d seen it at airports for the longest time, with it’s enticing praise on the covers and its attractive front cover. But I resisted until I found it at Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe in NYC. For a discount and a good cause, this is one of the items I bought from the bookstore. However, for now, it’ll have to wait its turn again.
I think another turn off for me personally is the fact that it is switching and not yet (if ever?) returning to the characters. It feels like Italio Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler that I read as a freshman at Lawrence University–which was really disjointed and invokes the reader, neither of which I enjoyed. Emotional roller coasters with no closure and choppy rides with no reason make me an unhappy reader; it’s like kicking people when they are down.
So, it’s time for a different type of book to try and jump start this reading project again, otherwise I’ll never get through everything at this rate! and with quite a selection remaining, there are many I believe that will do the trick. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Updates: A few Sundays ago, I finished Reading Lolita in Tehran, which I loved. Despite my tempered review, it really is a book worth reading especially at this time considering global events. I’m a firm believer in more knowledge of people and the world is always a good thing. This book really showed a women’s perspective of Tehran and what it’s like to live in Iran.
Infinite update: Same place. Haven’t moved that bookmark and I need to. What I should do is hold myself accountable each week for an hour or two of reading in that novel in addition to my current novel. Now with better weather approaching, I’ll be able to sit out on the porch away from the Internet’s wireless reach and catching up on my reading, ’cause if I want to get through my bookshelf, I have to pick up the pace!