Friday, February 15, 2008

LIMITATIONS

As I have written before, I am slowly working my way through the books that were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. I have read (or am reading) 13 of them, including 2007's winner, which I am currently reading. More about that later.

Anyway, I have not limited my non-work, non-current events (i.e. newspapers, the Atlantic, etc.) to Pulitzer Prize winners. This is not a race, just a fall back when I am looking for good books. In any case, the book I just read was Orhan Pamuk's The Black Book. Pamuk is a Nobel Prize winner. This book has fantastic reviews on Amazon. People got all kinds of deep stuff out of it. Me? Not so much. I felt like everything would have more sense if I had a cultural context, and could not really stay interested in 300+ pages of meditation on "the nature of human identity" to quote an Amazon reviewer.

This is not new for me. Of the Nobel Laureates I've read, I found Tagore, Sinclair Lewis, Hesse, Faulkner, Marquez, and Mahfouz to be brutally impenetrable. Not all for the same reasons, to be sure. Still that is a pretty bad run for some world-acclaimed authors. I don't think that having enjoyed other Nobel Prize winners (Mann, Buck, Hemingway, Camus, Kawabata, Boell, Heaney, Grass) quite makes up for the fact that I stand roughly a 50% chance of getting nothing out of a Nobel Prize winning author. My lit instructors from high school and college must be weeping now.

As to my current book, I am reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road. I have no review of it. I am only less than 100 pages into it. However, the entire plot line, described by Dennis Lehane at Amazon as
a post-apocalyptic blight of gray skies that drizzle ash, a world in which all matter of wildlife is extinct, starvation is not only prevalent but nearly all-encompassing, and marauding bands of cannibals roam the environment with pieces of human flesh stuck between their teeth . . . Stealing across this horrific (and that's the only word for it) landscape are an unnamed man and his emaciated son, a boy probably around the age of ten.
I started reading this at bed time, with U sleeping about 15 feet away. I cannot even tell you how hard it was to read. Even imagining U in the world that kid is in almost made me stop reading. Oy. Nobody said that having a kid would make me crazy.

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