Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wrapping up the September/October reading list

I started this reading project with the noble ambition of making a large dent in the Nobel Laureates book list and am moving on to other books and other horizons.

Most of these books that I've read (the Piano Teacher, Auto-da-fe, Mourning Becomes Electra) are about such extraordinary people. Here, I'm not using the word "extraordinary" as one describes superheroes or gods, but as in the sense of being an island amongst people - these characters (Erika Kohut, Kien, Herzog, the Buendias) have festered so long in their isolated world that they are unable to reconcile their perception of the world with reality. It apparently makes for great literature. It's really quite something.

On dust jacket flaps and in book reviews, one often reads about so-and-so being an extraordinary character, and so special ("an extraordinary girl in an ordinary life breaks out into stardom" or "the extraordinary adventures of Becky Sharp") but I always feel a little let down by the description. Those characters still react to situations as I might and think as I might. They don't read while their child is being eaten to death by fire ants. They don't stalk around a consignment store, giving people money so that they don't have to sell their books. They don't turn all of their thousands of books in their bookcases so that the spines face inward as a domestic battle tactic. Good one, Kien.

For a concrete example, take Temperance Brennan on the popular tv show Bones. Not only is she named after my personal favourite knightly virtue, she isn't your average person. Highly intelligent, slightly socially awkward, overly rational and, of course, beautiful, she's really not the girl next door. But, on the extraordinary fictional personage scale, she doesn't hold her own against Kien and the life. Despite her apparent inability to perceive sarcasm or bounds of socially accepted conversation, she still has human emotions. She has friends and shows concern for her coworkers. At times, viewers can still relate to her. If you, however, want to read about someone intelligent, socially awkward, overly rational/idealistic, and is guaranteed to react different from you in every possible situation, then let me refer you to Auto-da-fe.

Rushdie once wrote: "If from speed you get your thrill, take precaution - make your will." Well, if from deviance you get your thrill, read on - but make your will. I'm glad I read on. Now, my first thought when dealing with troublesome cohabitants is an impulse to rearrange all my books in battle position.

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