Feeling Not So Bookish
Tuesday, 18 February 2014
I have a confession to make. I almost read Eat, Pray, Love. *silent shudder*. Actually, I did read the first hundred pages or so before I could no longer take the earnest, self-absorbed dullness of it. And the oversharing. A sudden bolt of context has suggested to me that perhaps I should desist with the stone throwing from within my glass menagerie. Well, at least I don’t ask people to pay to read my blog (just as well because I’m not sure even my mother would cough up the goods). Although I would like to have a movie made of my life - I’ve been to Italy, I’ve been to Bali…I understand that the attached husband and toddler detract from my marketability but they’re very hard to shake off. Maybe if I were more angsty and self-destructive - would nauseous and cranky have similar appeal? Perhaps not.
I know I’m probably subjecting your brain to more Eat, Pray, Love than it ever thought desirable but I want you to understand how desperate I was. I picked up a book - a memoir - about a woman who is getting a divorce so she goes on holiday for a year. That’s it - the entire plot. She doesn’t do it on a dollar a day because her publisher gave her a $200,000 advance (cheat). She doesn’t do anything obscure or dangerous - Italy, India and Indonesia (well, Bali, if you call that as Indonesia but it’s really more like Antipodean Florida). If I thought there was money in it I could write a novella about the 16 hour car journey I made to and from Tegal *semi-silent shudder* in Central Java. I fear my tale would suffer from a dearth of drama - although having to pee on the roadside under an active volcano in front of beeping motorists was fairly stressful (I am haunted by a disturbing scene in Dante’s Peak which has made me somewhat nervous around volcanos). If it is drama that is required, I could always write about Little A’s birth…less of a self-exploratory memoir though, more gothic thriller. Not sure there’s much of a market for that either. Also, I wasn’t a divorcée searching for love - but I was unmarried and searching for opiates, similar surely?
You may be wondering how Eat, Pray, Love came to be in my possession in the first place if it is so offensive to my literary sensibilities (in fact, I don’t have any literary sensibilities, I just have a very, very low bar below which I am reluctant to sink). I think my mother gave it to me - not in a ‘let me share a book I loved with you’ kind of way - more in a ‘people can’t see this on my bookshelf, please take it’ kind of way. It’s been floating around my own bookshelf for about five years now but I have never felt the need to pick it up…until this week. And what was the trigger? The trigger was - and this is where a lot of you are going to totally lose literary respect for me - is that EPL was preferable the book I’m actually reading which I hate so much, I am now considering reading Mr Oh’s 800 page history of Deng Xiao Ping (although it is full of interesting tid-bits - like apparently Xiao Ping means ‘Little Flat Head’…cute). In fact, I hate the book I’m reading to the point where I will (and have) read absolutely anything - China Daily, the weather forecast, student essays on George Bernard Shaw, a book on the history of space flight (actually, it’s rather good) - rather than read another single page of Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann.
I can hear some of you e-gasp. Let The Great World Spin…national treasure, winner of multiple awards, Irish voice of the modern American experience? Jesus wept. What misery fills the pages - it’s like the Eyeore of books. Now I don’t want to make sweeping generalizations but Irish writers are the most the depressive, unwieldy, overbearing bunch of sanctimoniously worthy bores that I have ever had the misfortune to feel obliged to read (on nationalistic grounds and also to avoid being accused of being culturally vacant with more than semi-alarming regularity). Too sweeping? Too general? Actually, Roddy Doyle is good…but, the rest of them, oh mine eyes, why must they be so dreary and grim? All the characters in Irish novels are alcoholics, sad farmers, grieving widows or dysfunctional sociopaths. It’s no wonder no one wants to go to Ireland on holiday…nothing to do with the rain.
Once I finish reading Let The Great World Spin - which at my current rate of a page a night should be somewhere around July 2016 - I am resolved to read Irish writers no more. And to avoid being labelled a philistine, I will read War and Peace, David Copperfield and Don Quixote (I’ve already read 1984, Frankenstein and the first six pages of Moby Dick). I also pledge to stop reading the Daily Mail online. That should cover it.