Monday, November 2, 2009

Gratitude, part 2

When I first read the book Possession by AS Byatt, I didn't finish it. I read part of it, enjoying it all the while, but for some reason it got put by the wayside and I didn't finish it. It wasn't until I was talking with Amy a few years later when she mentioned it. I vaguely recalled it, and I went back to the library soon after and restarted it, promptly finished it, and loved every overly detailed moment.

I've looked forward to so many books that came out this fall, one of them being AS Byatt's new novel, The Children's Book. After reading (and loving) Catching Fire, Year of the Flood, and Her Fearful Symmetry, I eagerly went on to The Children's Book. It had me for a few pages, and then I started feeling a strange sense of deja vu. Unfortunately, I wasn't being reminded of Possession, but another AS Byatt I'd read called The Virgin in the Garden. I hated Virgin. I read all of it's 400+ pages because I wanted to be smart enough to read an AS Byatt novel that wasn't Possession. But big deal. I didn't feel smarter after I read it, just relieved that it was over.

Last week read a few reviews of The Children's Book. I found out that she has said that she wrote Possession in an attempt to "show off," (the exact quote from Barnes & Noble is this: "I knew people would like it," Byatt told The New York Times. "It's the only one I've written to be liked, and I did it partly to show off.").

How does that make me feel as a reader? Pretty crappy, actually. It makes me resent her for throwing off amazing, Booker-prize winning books like they don't matter, just to show that she can. Am I jealous? Of course. But is that the kind of author I want to read? Not so much. I'm not saying she has to write a book that will appeal to every style of reader; every author fills a niche somewhere for someone. That's why we have Dan Brown books and Danielle Steel books and Steven King books, right?

So somewhere, there is a niche for overly-erudite books like Virgin and Children's Book, and people to fill it. But I don't fit into that niche. Does that make me dumb? Maybe. Probably. But I figure there are enough writers out there who would give their blood, sweat, and tears to write a book like Possession, without resenting the fact that they wrote a book that people liked. Perish the thought.

So, tonight I'm grateful for two things: for the authors I love, who write me a story that I can wrap myself in. That teach me a lesson from their words, that build me a world that I crawl into during my breaks and lunches, that use language to build a reality that enriches my world.

And, I'm grateful I don't have to finish a book just because I started it. The library return slot doesn't know the difference.


Amy Sorensen said...

You're nothing if not intelligent! Or, we are dumb together, because there are some books that really ARE to erudite for me to waste my time on.

I think it's odd that she said she was "showing off" by writing Possession, because it seems like showing off is what she does more in her other books, not Possession. It's strange.

At any rate, I will still try The Children's Hour, but I won't buy it now.

Amy Sorensen said...

I was interested, so I looked up the interview:

(I don't know if you have to create a user in order to see it though.) What struck me most: I didn't realize that Margaret Drabble is the sister! I love Drabble but they don't sound like they're very nice to each other.

Apryl said...

You give the best reviews. I know you're probably sick of my gushing over your comments and insights, but seriously. THE BEST REVIEWS. I love to read, but when I read I want to find a new perspective, be transported to another place through a great story, and generally entertained. ENHTERTAIN ME, DAMMIT! I'm shallow like that. I don't need to feel smart.