Thursday, 3 August 2006

Bookless in the evenings

I wrote, a few weeks ago, that I was not reading books at the moment. Since then, I've read a few, but I've not been engrossed in reading several each week as usual. At the time, I couldn't work out why but now, maybe, I have.

Four months ago, I read 'Human Traces' by Sebastian Faulks. He's a good writer and it was not a bad book, but it left me oddly unsatisfied - it just seemed a bit too contrived.
For example, one character went on an expedition to Africa and found prehistoric footprints, of a family of a man, woman and child, fossilised in volcanic ash. He cut one out to bring back to Europe but, surprise, surprise, it was lost forever when a mule fell to its death in a gorge. It had to be lost, because if he'd brought it back then it would have had to have happened then. These footprints exist, but that character didn't bring them back.
A baby boy was born, after years of his mother's barrenness. I counted up the years - yep, I bet that infant is due to die in the prime of early manhood in the First World War. And so he did. Dying didn't add anything to the story, it was just done because that happened a lot in the 1914-18 war and he was far too much beloved to be allowed to live. The requisite poignant twist - oh puh-leeze Mr Faulks.

It was not a bad book by any means - too long, Mr Faulks became too engrossed in his characters and turned it into a life-long biographical tome, when shorter and to the point would have been better. But - and this would have been so much more forgivable in a lesser writer - he made me aware of the plot devices. And I've lost my suspension of disbelief and I look for the contrived episodes in every book and can't be bothered to read them.

Maybe I should reread 'Birdsong' and then I will forgive him.

6 comments:

Life of a Banana said...

thank you for your informative book report.

Are you a speed reader?

Z said...

I used to be - in my teens I did a speed reading course - but I slowed down deliberately, eventually, because I couldn't afford the books I needed to keep up with myself.
I've put a link to the piece I wrote before - I'm feeling a bit guilty that I'm damning Sebastian F with very faint praise, but I spent a few days reading the 600 pages of that book and was left feeling it could have been better.

PI said...

A sadness I have at present is that I have reader's block - as far as books are concerned and I wonder if I am getting even more bird-brained. Books have been such a solace.

Z said...

I miss wanting to read, I need a really engrossing book that I can't put down.
A friend of mine has a theory that something in me is fulfilled through blogging, when it used to be through books. I don't think so, but he could have a point perhaps?

PI said...

I think there is a lot of truth in that. By the time I catch up with the papers- and I dread the week-end's pile - my mind becomes occcupied with the next post. At least one is being creative and after years of writing in a comparitive vacuum it is bliss to get feed back.

Z said...

I never have written for pleasure before. I sometimes think in advance what I might write about (but then I have always talked to myself a lot; I'm the one person who can be relied upon to listen) - but often, having gone through it in my mind, it's been said and so I write something completely different.
My friend reads this blog (one of very few people whom I've told it exists) so he'll be interested in what you say.