Sunday 1 March 2009

Am I paying off some kind of horrible karmic book debt ?

February turns out to have been the month of cursed reading choices for me, for much to my chagrin, Natsuo Kirino's Grotesque is, to be blunt, a complete piece of shit. I would like to apologize to you for bringing you more book crankiness, so please don't hold this post against me. But how do I apologize to myself for the time I spent on this, just hoping it would somehow become even half, nay a quarter!, as good as Kirino's previous novel, Out?

I can't apologize and indeed I'd think of scourging my back with some stinging plant product made into a whip in shame and repentance if this novel hadn't already been the reading equivalent thereof.

Grotesque is about the murders of two middle-aged prostitutes in Tokyo, linked by the narrator who is sister of one and former high school "friend" of the other. I think Kirino tries to revisit in this novel the complicated social position of women in modern, urban Japan that she so effectively and chillingly considered in Out. But somehow that doesn't come across here; all that comes across is that women and girls are total bitch-fests into serving themselves and getting at others in the pettiest and most devious ways possible.

Irritating misogyny aside (if I could put it aside, which I can't), this book was just boring - the machinations of the narrator just weren't interesting and her constant harping on all the things that bugged her were infuriating precisely because they were so unrelentingly uninteresting. I felt like punching her in the mouf and telling her to shaddap.

All I can say is, it's a good thing I borrowed this book from the library because otherwise I'd really be irked! This is one of the many reasons why I love libraries: we support them by patronizing them, and they support us by sometimes saving us from spending money on pure shite.

Anyway, enough negativity. On a positive note, I'm dispensing with the keeping track of how many books I read per year thing. I realized that for reasons I don't get (but I'm sure the word "obsessive" would appear somewhere in the explanation) I had become quite attached to the numbers game and was thus losing out a bit on pure reading fun; indeed, I had stopped enjoying the collection of Henry James short stories I've had on the go for most of the past year because I was all worked up about not finishing them during this blog year. Lame.

Here's to not caring about numbers (except, of course, for the 2009 Support Your Local Library Challenge!) and to not reading any more sub-par books until the summer at the very earliest. I feel like a terrible book would be somewhat more palatable were I reading it outside on a patio somewhere.


Stacy said...

I am sorry you have had a bad reading month but if there is a silver lining it is that you have written a post that made this reader laugh...exactly for its bluntness. It reminds me of how ticked off I get at an author when I feel they have wasted my time by writing such a bad book (because I have a thing about finishing books no matter how bad).

I think if I ever did become anxious over the numbers game of tracking the books I read, I would stop too. But for me it is a complusion that I find to be fun...which is why I keep joining more and more of these challenges:)

Here's hoping to your finding only good reads.

Anonymous said...

Would you recommend Out? I'm trying to widen my list of contemporary Japanese authors...

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear you've had a disappointing month's reading, you obviously really didn't like Out!

I also find I can lose my pleasure in my reading if I think about it to quantatively. I try to concentrate on the quality of what I'm reading rather than how many books I have (and haven't) read.

Bookphilia said...

Book Psmith: I've lucked out since finishing Grotesque and read a great Ellis Peters book and am now reading a good (for far) novel by Guy Gavriel Kay. Yay!

Verbivore: Yes, I would recommend Out with the warning that it can be quite gruesome.

Sarah: No, no I loved Out! That made Grotesque even more disappointing than it already was!

Anonymous said...

Teehee. Book Kharma, I love it.

I loved Out right up until the weird, out of the blue, bonkers falling-in-love-with-your-rapist strangeness at the end. That put me off reading anything more by the author!

I'm with you on not counting your reads ( was only thinking about this today actually! How odd!) I find it takes over from enjoying the read itself and tends to encourage 'rushing' a book. Slow and easy does it for me these days. One book at a time for however long that book takes. ( so glad you had a better experience with your next read!)

Bookphilia said...

Celine: yeah, I've warned a few people away from Out because of the ending, which surprised me. It made me uncomfortable and freaked out as well but I was into the bleakness of it - to survive she has to become her attacker, taking pleasure in the violence and killing him, and loving him only as he's safely on his way to oblivion. But no, not for everyone!