Bitty Ruminations 90 – A Little Life

Posted on November 17, 2019

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I’ve not had a very good run with fiction of late.  I can’t read the really junky books anymore. Once in a while, I may pick up a Harold Robbins or something, just for a change — but I prefer slightly (but not too) highbrow fiction. It’s almost always fiction. I am not much of a non-fiction guy. And this is the zone I find it’s toughest to find books I like. I think the last such novel that kept me hooked was Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things. I gave Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch the good old college try, and I loved the first 100-odd pages, but the rest I found very boring. As for male authors, I loved Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom and plunged into his next book (Purity) with great expectations, but it left me cold.

All of this, naturally, makes me ask things like: Has my mind been warped by today’s technology? Am I now more of a “viewer” than a “reader”? Have I stopped being able to read the “new”, and should I therefore keep re-reading the Marquez-es and so forth? Or should I be happy reading long-ish articles on the web? I mean, I still read religiously every day, and most books I pick have a certain amount of professionalism that keeps me chugging through them — but it’s more like “I need to get my quota of reading done today” than “I can’t wait to find out what happens next”.

And then I started on Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life. The book has assured me that I am still a reader, that I can still spend an hour just turning pages and not look at the phone. It’s a sad story, and I guess that’s part of the appeal — I have always been drawn to people with sad lives. (Happy people are very uninteresting on the page.) The writing is exquisite, and I think some of it may have seeped (unconsciously) into some recent reviews like the one for The Sky is Pink, which is always one thing I hope for when I read. I have about 150 pages left and I am dreading the book coming to an end. So intensely has this world enveloped me.

I don’t believe in recommendations, and you — regular reader — must know this by now. I only say what I liked or disliked about a film, and do not expect anyone else to share this opinion. But with books, I wish there was someone who could steer me towards things I’d like. Find me such a person, no?