Tuesday, March 1, 2011
The protagonist's voice didn't change in her year of language immersion; it remained simplistic and banal, other than a few pithy observations far beyond her presumed language ability. The 'love' between an obsessive twentysomething fresh outta China and a fortysomething bisexual man - come on, really? It was insulting and seemed forced. The protagonist's interpretation of London was cliche, not a uniquely Chinese perspective. And the random (token?) 'solo' European inter-railing 'adventure' was ridiculous - she just happened to immediately meet men in every port and just happened to have unnecessary non-sexual and sexual experiences with them. I knew how this was going to end by page 25. Of course they split up. Of course she goes back home. Of course she continues to obsess and the man moves on. And I'm left wondering what in the world this book was about, other than two selfish and unlikeable people who spend some time together and discover they're better apart.
Of course, as a writer, I can learn from this, but as a reader, how in the world did a novel like this get nominated for the Orange Prize in 2007 (alongside The Inheritance of Loss and Digging to America)? What is it about this book that received such accolades? Is it me?
It might be me. I have yet to make it past the first 10 pages of A Confederacy of Dunces - which some of my favorite people have firmly in their top 10 - and can't figure out what people like about Ian McEwan's writing style. What books have disappointed you?