Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Reading revulsion: sorry to rant!

The only thing that unsettles my stomach more than reading my own writing is reading published work that should not have been published. Unfortunately, this dilemma faces me as I write an essay on a book I dislike. Scholars have not touched the novel. Did the pallid prose send them searching for more sexy material? One girl in my tutorial cheerfully announced that we could do our honours theses on it. Reader, I shuddered. Owing to the dearth of critical material I will not name the text for fear of bringing fellow students (googling googlies?) here.

The premise of the book has merit. Events unfolding in an ancient Chinese text are mirrored with a contemporary love story between a Chinese antique dealer and an Australian girl. I have an aversion to the author’s clumsy and uninventive style. Lines such as, ‘He made love and become another person who was also himself’ frustrate me with their hackneyed expression. This is disappointing, because the novel aims at sensory immersion. The girl who I co-presented with adored it, but I am left grimacing as I take in each page.

Why would I write my essay on a book that I hated? I did my tutorial presentation on it, and in lazy uni-student fashion I’m drawing upon those ideas to save time. Does it sound like I'm being unfair on this book? I have a hard time saying I don’t like something. To me, books are like people, and I don’t want to hurt their feelings. Generally, most books I review are the ones I enjoyed. Yes, I tend to cruise the comfort-zone when reading for pleasure.

With three major essays approaching I’m feeling pressure, pressure, pressure. Arggggh! Ending on a more cheerful thought, I don't have to cook tonight because we are going out to dinner to celebrate the birthday of one of our houseguests from England.


Matt said...

Ah, the mystery, I wonder what book you're talking about. That sentence, the example you gave, is terrible. If that represents what is found in the rest of the book I'm not surprised you hated it.

Siew Cooper said...

I'm intrigued too! Now I'll be scouring all the local bookstores to see which one it was ;)

I'm not sure if I ever felt that revulsion myself, unless you count Tristam Shandy, of which only about 50 pages were read, the rest skimmed, and I daresay I possibly skipped that seminar.

verbivore said...

Sounds pretty bad - I just have one question, is it in translation? That doesn't mean the original is any better but sometimes a bad translation can ruin an otherwise wonderful book. And now I'm also curious which book you're talking about!

acquisitionist said...

Here's something for you all, I'll include a pictorial clue in the next post. It will give away the title and keep it secret at the same time. Remember, don't post the answer! If you want any more info about the book feel free to e-mail me.

Verbivore, No, it's not in translation. It makes me sad because it's written by an Australian author too.

Heather said...

Yiii! Even that one sentence makes me shudder! If I'd given work like that to one of my editors they would have read me the riot act!