Sometimes, y’all, I just flounder around and drag my reading with me. That’s what happened to these guys, although my putting them down is ultimately (mostly) their fault. They allow themselves to be flounderable, so I reserve the right to not finish them.
Still feels a bit like a defeat, though.
The Next Best Thing, by Jennifer Weiner
I fall for this every time it’s raining on a Sunday when I don’t have anywhere to go after dinner – I wanna read something that feels good instead of thinks, because I’ve been thinking all week and a fat lot of good it’s done me so far. (It has, in fact, done me at least moderate good, but tell Sunday Melanie that and she will just demand more paperbacks with brightly-colored spines.)
Jennifer Weiner doesn’t go deep enough to feel good. Her dialogue’s clever but her characters are too supported and her stories are lacking any actual conflict to get the mildly invested I need to be to feel vicariously awesome at her inevitable happy endings.
But every time, you guys. Every. Time. I think it’ll be different. I blame her author interviews which are totally more self-depricatingly inspiring than anything her “smartass” narrators ever come up with.
The Corrections, by Johnathan Franzen
These all go back to trying to find the perfect comfort read, which sounds perverse with this one, but seriously. I wanted a big chunk of family angst that was familiar enough to not lose everything if I couldn’t pay as strict attention as usual to all the details and real enough so I could delve into someone else’s pain, and damned if Franzen isn’t like the best dude currently for that. I mean like excruciatingly realistic. Reading as, like, exfoliating with that bathroom sandpaper-on-a-washcloth kind of stuff.
I read The Corrections awhile back, as a random pick from my NA library when I still lived there, and it wasn’t the book’s fault this time because it’s exactly as described above and worked just as well as I thought it would; only turns out I didn’t need it nearly as long as it was taking to read the book. So I’m taking it back about half-read but actually sort of happy about that.
Cheerful Money: Me, My Family, and the Last Days of WASP Splendor, by Tad Friend
My Franzen craving flared up real hard at a branch that didn’t have The Corrections at the moment, so I picked this up as sort of the memoir-equivalent of what I remember The Corrections being about. It’s not; it’s a gentle poke at WASP culture that never gets wry enough to offer any real insight, and at least once a chapter (of the couple I read) devolves into a list of historic names and places that are dizzying and, again, not presented with near enough context as to why we’re supposed to care either as honest admirers or smug derivers.
An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England (audio book version), by Brock Clarke
I checked this out for the ride to and from NA when I went to visit my parents last month because I can’t handle music right now. So, words! Words of a book I’ve been curious about for awhile! But oh geez this turns – not depressing, but extremely repetitious about the depressing parts of the story. Like, seriously, this is a really good argument for that editing trick of reading your stories out loud, because it circles back around to the same point so many times I just couldn’t do it. And it pairs that oddly with that trick of telling great chunks of time – seemingly important time to character/plot development, I mean you gotta be picky about this, I know, but a little more how-did-we-get-here and a little less oh-shit-what-have-I-done, okay? – in single paragraphs or pages. (Well, like I know how long a page sounds. Whatever.)
Maybe I’d like it better if I read the words myself, but for now I’m handing it back in and listening to Sports Talk.