Books: not necessarily difficult.

Ulysses, James Joyce
Image by cobra libre via Flickr

Norm at the Library has a hopeful note up today. It’s possible to like books with plots in them, and not have to be publicly ashamed at that fact.

Well, folks, it looks like the long literary nightmare is finally over.

via “…they have trained us… to associate a crisp, dynamic, exciting plot with supermarket fiction, and cheap thrills, and embarrassment.” « Stacked.

Maybe now I can admit that I never finished James Joyce‘s Ulysses. I’ve felt overly sensitive about that fact ever since our tour guide in Dublin said he’d read it long ago.

According to the WSJ article that Norm links to,

If there’s a key to what the 21st-century novel is going to look like, this is it: the ongoing exoneration and rehabilitation of plot.

That’s another reason that I’m enjoying A. S. Byatt‘s The Children’s Book: stuff happens. Should I admit that in public? Oh, why not.

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What to read: The Children's Book

I believe that I have come to the end of my attempt at reading Infinite Jest.

Is the book “too much” for me? Perhaps. Probably not. So why did I stop? Too much exposition. Too much detail and not enough reason to want that detail. The characters’ lives, both inner and outer, are spread before me, the reader, in truly astonishing and well-done detail. I can’t want for more diligent descriptions.

I quit caring about the characters very quickly, though. There is, in this book, too much detail and not enough substance. Yes: what do I mean by that? I mean that, knowing great amounts of detail about someone, such as Hal Incandenza, is not the same thing as knowing them. Knowing about is not knowing. I did not feel taken into the book.

Bringing this into context for me was receiving my copy, bought from Amazon UK, of A. S. Byatt’s latest novel, The Children’s Book. The book is not out here in the USA yet, not until some time in September, so fans who can’t wait must order abroad and pay silly shipping fees.

I started reading the book as soon as it was delivered. I felt drawn into the book with the first sentence. I am not sure how Byatt managed to do that trick, because it’s a very plain little sentence. I know less about the characters than I do about Wallace’s. However, I care to know more, and read on and find out what happens. Here is the point where I am supposed to regale you with mysterious bits of plot development from The Children’s Book, but I have not progressed far enough to do so. Even if I had, though, I would still do my best to have you go on over to Amazon and put in a pre-order for that title.

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