Books I’ll never read

More books are written than you can read. Until you are, say 40, you read fully expecting you’ll get a chance to re-read. But will you? So many books to read and time will run out, eventually. One cannot read everything and so you begin to make decisions, conscious decision as to what not to read. Some of these decision are hardly decisions — I do not read thrillers, I do not read Indonesian or Bulgarian novels. More interesting are decisions against certain writers that do pop up in your ‘cultural’ environment. Books & authors that you tried reading, but that, repeatedly, did not strike a chord in you… Nabokov. Dostojevski. Pamuk. I tried reading their novels and I never finished one. Came halfway De Gebroeders Karamazov but was so put off by the christian/religious theme in the book that I could not stomach reading the rest. And now also, Nathan Safran Foer. Last monday (at last) started reading his much-discussed Incredible Loud and Extremely Close (sh*t, do I remember the title correctly?), and after 50 pages lost interest, read a few bits from middle and end, looked at all the ‘nice’ experimental pages (well, not so experimental at all) and decided that the book was too sentimental for my taste. Sorry.

Question: I can stand Richard Powers’ bordering on sentimentality. Why not Foer’s?

en,reading matter | November 21, 2006 | 13:28 | Comments (6) |


  1. I can stand Richard Powers’ bordering on sentimentality. Why not Foer’s?

    It’s those too-wise-for-their-age brat(s). (I gave up on both his books after two chapters. And I almost never give up on books :)

    comment by Omar | 21 November 2006 | 16:57 |
  2. :) when I remember well, you also did not like David Mitchell’s books…. I think there’s more to it: ‘good’ storystelling + sentimentality + use of let’s say ‘postmodern’ tropes & tricks — that particular mix seems to turn me off, at least…

    Ah, waiting for the Pynchon…

    comment by Arie Altena | 22 November 2006 | 11:44 |
  3. Well, there’s always more to it. ;) I just know I don’t like precocious & sullen characters, except Holden Caulfield, the one they all want to emulate, don’t you think?

    Strange that you didn’t finish Karamazov, that was a typical “sneltreinvaart” read for me.

    comment by Omar | 22 November 2006 | 15:09 |
  4. I’m surprised you both find Foer’s novels sentimental, cause I think one of the main strengths of both books (Foer’s remarkable talent) is that these very emotional subjects are presented without the story becoming sentimental, grave, humourless.

    comment by J RG N | 27 November 2006 | 14:34 |
  5. Maybe the books’ childlike naivite and hopefulness bother you.

    comment by j rg n | 27 November 2006 | 14:37 |
  6. @j rg n : I guess it has someting to do with a naivite in Foers characters (but also of the story) that to me comes across as well, not fake, but maybe evading some real issues… (of course I can’t really say, not having read his latest till end…). It also has something to do with his ‘mainstreamy’, readable use of postmodern tricks — that I should like, seen my taste for radical and experimental forms of fiction, but that I do exactly not really like in Foer, or in David Mitchell, for that matter. Hmmm. Whereas both are (also in my opinion) amongst the more important contemporary writers.

    The only attempt at a critique of Foer that I know of & sort of sympatise with is Dirk van Weeldens review that appeared in the NRC a few months ago. He might not have been totally ‘fair’ (writing wilfully a comtroversial review to get a discussion between readers going), but it made sense to me:

    comment by Arie Altena | 6 December 2006 | 21:56 |

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