Monday, July 21, 2008

What I'm Reading

I can't finish "Absurdistan." I have been carrying it around now (figuratively; literally I've mostly left it home) for a month or so. It started out strong - a farcical adventure in a fictional post-Soviet country where our hero - an American-educated 500-lb. Russian expat- is trapped by a sudden civil war. But it's stalled, I'm stalled, I'm bored.

The author, Gary Shtengyart, wrote "The Russian Debutante's Handbook," another critically lauded novel that I had trouble finishing. In a similar way, it started out strong, but soon lost my interest. But reviews were so good, for both, that I thought I'd better give the second novel a chance.

And now, I think I'm not going to finish it.

I hate giving up on books. But I think it's time for this one. In all the weeks I have been putting off going back to reading it, I've also not allowed myself to crack open a new one in the to-be-read pile.

And then, this weekend, I was in Target with a gift card and wandered by the book department. New fiction, discounted, called out to me. I decided I deserved something new, fresh, to cleanse my palate before diving into something in my pile.

Target has a lot of Jodi Picoult. I read one of her novels once (bought at Target, in fact) and, at the risk of offending her fans (oh, hello), I am not interested in another. Target also has a lot of cookbooks and self-help books and sudoku books. In the paperback fiction section, there was little I hadn't read. I browsed through children's, and then young adult, and then saw a whole shelf of thick black-covered paperbacks: the "Twilight" series by Stephenie Meyers.

My interest was piqued. My gift card was out. I picked up the first book and scurried to the register.

It's a young adult novel, and I'm a fast reader, so two days later I'm more than halfway through the 500 pages. (I'd be done but I had to go to work and do other annoying stuff like shower, sleep, shop, and exercise.) I'm reading it the way I read anything I am curious about - with the overwhelming need to understand why it's developed such a cult audience.

I'll withhold my thoughts until I'm done but as of now, I'm so-so. It's become a bit repetitive (300 pages in, the plot hasn't advanced very far) and reminds me very much of the historical romances I used to devour when I was in junior high. (Victoria Holt was my master - all those gothic peasant girls sent to work as governesses in secluded castles with dark brooding tragic heirs - you get the drift.) I think if I were a Young Adult I'd be swooning.

We'll see. But at least I have a book I look forward to opening.


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