So I finally finished reading Wolf Hall
, by Hilary Mantel, which I have been working on on and off since the beginning of this year. I really struggled with it, and I think at some point I'm going to work up a post to articulate why, but here are the Cliffs Notes:
- I found this book incredibly absorbing but incredibly alienating.
- I think this is because the conceit of the book - a close third person, with a POV character who seems to think entirely in metaphors and memories - is so overly clever that I'm tempted to call it conceited. (Ha ha.)
- Like, sometimes it's beautiful, and I think from a characterisation perspective this book is incredible. Not, perhaps, easy, but challenging and rousing. It woke me up, that's for sure. The point of view made me feel like I knew the people around Cromwell as well as he did, no more and no less, and I think that's pretty cool.
- And then, other times, you get half-way through the book and ( minor spoilers )
My point here is that there's challenging, and then there's opaque, and I think this sometimes went to opaque. And to be honest I think that's a flaw. Or rather, I think that I think it's a flaw. There's a concept we talked about in a paper last year that I didn't understand until now, and I wish I could remember the specific words, but it was a famous dude literary theorist who had a word for writing that isn't comprehensible. At the time I didn't get to grips with this idea at all - I could only compare it to the unreliable narrator, and the prof said that that wasn't it (but couldn't give any specific examples.) However, maybe, if I'm remembering it right, this book fits the bill in some wise.
- and then on the other hand I sort of am anti the idea of reading - surface-level reading - being a process of decoding. I don't think writing should be laboured. Perhaps this is because when I studied literature I looked at it in the context of the period it was written in and its implied sociopolitical meanings, not really at the content of the books, so much. But I don't think that's it.
- Maybe I was just offended because I'm a pretty good reader and I found parts of this mass-market fiction trade paperback to be as difficult as any fiction I've read, and more difficult than not a few academic papers. (And saying that, I don't even have this dilemma about academic papers: I'm willing to concede that there are multiple purposes for fiction, but the purposes of non-fiction writing is to be understood, and if you can't do that, you shouldn't.) So, well, I don't know! I don't know how I feel about it. We'll let it percolate for awhile, shall we?
- To get over it, today I read the last two volumes of Scott Pilgrim (AWESOME, and now I'm fully prepped for the movie which also looks awesome) and started in on Homeland
, which is short stories by Barbara Kingsolver. Kingsolver is one of my favourite novelists and earlier this year I read Prodigal Summer
, the last novel of hers that I hadn't read, so I was planning on saving it for when I was really down. However, book group's theme this month is short stories, so there you go. I am enjoying them so far, but a lot of them, I must say, do feel like out-takes from her novels. But then, perhaps that's what I was looking for! They aren't like The Poisonwood Bible
, so that's a relief.
- Also I saw my sister in her school musical and she was frigging rocking! She was the lead and unfortunately had strep throat but she did pretty well considering. (They did Brigadoon, a musical I had never heard of & tbqh I probably won't rush out and download it, but one of its strengths was that it was set in Scotland, so they all did dreadful Scottish accents
(except for three people who did AMERICAN accents which were EVEN FUNNIER.) Worth the price of admission!