Lee's Reviews > Maidenhair
Decided not to assign "stars" for this thanks to my inconsistent, distracted, impatient reading. Top-notch prose, for the most part, on a sentence level. Or at least it seems like top-notch prose -- same with the various approaches employed. Sometimes it seemed like a semblance of Towering Literary Artistry, the semblance of an international mind-fuggin masterpiece, the semblance of Big Important Book imaginatively portraying atrocities, dealing in ye olde Faulknerian verities, harkening back to bloody days of yore and not so long ago. At its best, it reminded me of David Grossman's See Under: Love. Fantastic similes, wisdom, audacity -- often ingenious in terms of approach. BUT so often I felt like I was meant to applaud the author's awesomeness instead of see into the novel -- and it's possible this was the plan. Force upon the reader the experience of interpreting various stories, some viscerally real, some obviously concocted to the point of mythology/fairy-tale -- but, other than moments during the Q&A bits and the girl's diary, it didn't make for an "enjoyable" read, even for a reader with semi-masochistic tendencies. It took about 200 pages for the distinct narratives to clarify (I could've saved readerly navigation time by looking at the backcover copy earlier than I did -- copy that explains the rotating approaches -- although revealing its four or so rotating sections right away might dymystify things for readers, again, interpretating one's way out of initial disorientation seems like part of this one's plan). At first I was open to the book thanks to aforementioned unfakeable fantastic similes and insight and gorgeous descriptions. I read maybe 100 pages (pages 200–300 or so) with something like pleasure or engagement, following the story of the young singer's apostrophe-happy diary entries about a boy at the front, also the interpreter's time in Rome with his wife thinking about an idealized deceased boyfriend. But then skimmed the last 200 pages in the time it takes to read 20. No characters interested me and after a while I succumbed to the impulse to skim. Let's blame the crappy recent weather that dampened my regular daily walking/reading program. An absolutely ambitious novel that might bring endless joy to a patient reader, especially one with a soft spot/hard-on for Eurasian atrocity? It did sometimes feel like atrocity porn, like the author got off on the grotesque beauty of wartorn horrorshow. Might make for more engaging reading for someone better versed in Russian history, who's read the Arabian Nights and enjoyed Midnight's Children and Cloud Atlas (two well-liked novels I haven't been able to read much of). I love Open Letters -- and this one at first reminded me of the highly recommended Zone by Mathias Enard that they also published. Loved the look and feel of the book itself, but this just didn't do it for me. I was all set to love it and hype it to the heavens. A shame. Sorry. I fall upon my readerly sword, too dull to pierce this instance of high-falutin lit.
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February 17, 2013 – Shelved
May 17, 2013 – Started Reading
May 22, 2013 –29.25% ""it seems odd that the children of cyclopses and cicadas are islands" -- they're just enough lines like this to keep me reading this hyperprosey atrocity exhibition. Hard to keep with it despite the prose, might not make it all the way to the end -- sort of too uber-modernist show-offy stylie for these warm days of May?"
May 28, 2013 – Shelved as: put-down-for-now
May 28, 2013 – Finished Reading