i'm currently reading miriam toews' all my puny sorrows, and i think this might be the first time i've held a book at arm's length. the voice is incredible, and the characters are fleshed out and fully human, and i appreciate the book for its depiction of how a sister and a family rally around a depressed and suicidal loved one -- but that's also why i hold it at arm's length. i'm wary about these narratives, am more interested in hearing from the suicidal themselves, and so i'm reading all my puny sorrows slowly with a queasiness rolling around in my stomach, hoping, don't fuck this up, don't fuck this up, don't fuck this up, as i flip each page.
thus far, though, i'm thoroughly appreciating it -- yoli's voice, the humor that prevents the book from sinking into indulgent despair, toews' generous but honest depiction of elfie. i love elfie in ways that squeeze my heart and make me feel for her, hurt for her, and toews has done a beautiful job of showing her for all her contradictions, too -- she isn't a caricature or a stereotype (okay, part of the precocious, genius pianist part is a little much), and she's vulnerable and infinitely human in her desire to end her life. (none of this is a spoiler, so don't worry.) i'm a little more than halfway through the book now and hope it is good all the way to the end!
i spent yesterday afternoon with a friend, going to a reading, eating pie, and talking books, and she mentioned (or asked about, i forget which) my rereading tendencies. as it goes, i reread quite a bit -- i know some might argue that there are so many books out there to read that time's essentially wasted rereading books -- but i love to go back to the books i love, the books that stay with me and come back to me time and time again. and i love rereading, the discovery of new things, of things i missed previously, seeing how i read books differently now that i've changed because reading isn't a static act -- we bring our experiences and our needs and our desires to the books we read, so it's inevitable that they'll touch us in different ways at different points in our lives.
sometimes, though, i admit it's disappointing in ways, like with me and haruki murakami. i loved him intensely when i first started reading him in my early twenties, but, over the years, as i've gone back to some of his books and read his new books as they were released in translation, i find myself less and less enamored, more and more aware and critical of the sameness of his work, the sterile tones, the flatness of his women. even so (or maybe in such ways), i think of him nostalgically because he spoke so intimately to a specific chapter in my life, when i felt myself drifting and aimless and isolated, so i suppose i can't necessarily call it disappointing, especially because this is one of the things that makes the reader's life dynamic -- that our tastes change as we change, that the themes we respond to and seek out morph as we grow. further, it's true that the author-reader relationship is just that -- a relationship -- and, like all relationships, it's subject to change and growth and, sometimes, termination.
it's been an ambivalent reading year thus far. i know i've read books in 2015 that i've loved, but i'm having a hard time recollecting them. i've read several books i've loved/enjoyed in the moment but have ultimately turned out to have no sticking factor. i've dropped (or wanted to drop) a few books, which i hate doing, and i've resorted to skimming pages just to get to the end, which i also hate doing. i've been wary of going into bookstores and browsing because i'm suddenly very wary of buying books that will disappoint (man, find me burned me bad), but that's okay because i've been liking oyster books because libraries and i are a disastrous pairing.
maybe i'm just in an ambivalent place at the moment. or maybe it really is just the recent string of books that fell flat. which, i must add, also make me reread because, when new books are disappointing, i like turning to a familiar favorite because there's a sense of safety there. which is why i'm also currently reading franzen's strong motion for the second time because i thoroughly enjoyed it the first time around and have wanted to come back to it ever since, so i decided, what the hell? purity (and its terrible cover) is five months away, anyway, and the heart wants what the heart wants. in my opinion, strong motion deserves more love -- it really is the ignored second child, but it's really good! i feel like franzen grew tremendously as a writer between the twenty-seventh city (which i reread last year and realized i didn't like) and strong motion, hideous cover and all.
heh, i suppose there's my update about my planned reading of middlemarch ...
(seriously, though, september really can't come soon enough, especially when september will also bring us a new book-in-translation from shin kyung-sook!!! cannot wait!)