miércoles, 20 de julio de 2011

Snow, Interrupted

With apologies to the rest of the Wolves and anybody else unfortunate enough to be participating in this month's group read of Orhan Pamuk's Snow, I'm going to be taking a break--maybe a permanent break--from the book to concentrate on books I actually want to read.  Maybe the thing gets better after the first 200 pages.  At this point in time, though, I can't take any more of the novel's excruciatingly boring blend of Mahfouz's The Cairo Trilogy III and Dostoevsky's Demons in its pairing of a dopey, lovesick protagonist and an unengaging, hamfisted political farce.  "An engrossing feat of tale-spinning," my ass.

Pamuk in Action
Here's an example of dialogue from Pamuk (from page 135 in the Vintage paperback, translated from the Turkish by Maureen Freely) that only a YA fan, the Nobel committee, or the apparently easy to please Margaret Atwood could find "engrossing." Whatever.

 "I don't want you ever to leave me," Ka told Ipek.  "I've fallen wildly in love with you."
"But you hardly know me," said Ipek.
"There are two kinds of men," said Ka, in a didactic voice.  "The first kind does not fall in love until he's seen how the girl eats a sandwich, how she combs her hair, what sort of nonsense she cares about, why she's angry at her father, and what sorts of stories people tell about her.  The second type of man--and I am in this category--can fall in love with a woman only if he knows next to nothing about her."
"In other words, you've fallen in love with me because you know nothing about me?  Do you really think you can call this love?"
"If you fall head over heels, that's how it happens," said Ka.
"So once you know how I eat a sandwich and what I wear in my hair, you'll fall right out of love."
"No, by then the intimacy that's built up between us will deepen and turn into a desire that wraps itself around our bodies, and we'll be bound together by our happy memories."

28 comentarios:

  1. Oh, how I love your first sentence, with its seemingly innocuous build-up, and then the devastating and hilarious conclusion. Such a great writer you are!

    And now I'm off to my local Subway to see if anyone will fall in love with me while he or she watches me eat my sandwich. (I should point out, however, that most people who watch me tear into food have sort of the opposite reaction, but I'm willing to give it a go!)

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  2. If you feel this way about Snow, and not entirely without reason, don't pick up The Museum of Innocence. Even I had to abandon ship on the later, and I quite enjoyed Snow. Possibly you need to read it in the Winter? :)

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  3. I do read YA. Writing that bad can be found in YA, but typically only in bad YA. Good YA is much better.

    I think Snow is in my TBR pile somewhere. I'll save it for winter as Bellezza suggests.

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  4. You had to bring your ass into this. Given permission from you, I will also be bailing. Painful. And you could not have pulled a better quote to illustrate how painful. Back to Marias instead I think. And off to imagine Jill's Subway excursion then perhaps a walk where I will stare at random strangers to see if they have fallen for me in a glance.

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  5. Oh crap, I have yet to even START. Hmm. We'll see how far I get if this is what I have to look forward to.

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  6. Hey, you guys are reading the same Snow I read! No idea what book Atwood was reading.

    I challenge any defender of the novel to solve the poem crystal puzzle.

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  7. I can't take any more of the novel's excruciatingly boring blend of Mahfouz's The Cairo Trilogy III and Dostoevsky's Demons in its pairing of a dopey, lovesick protagonist and an unengaging, hamfisted political farce. "An engrossing feat of tale-spinning," my ass.

    ---

    I wish you were my neighbor. I'd be on my best behavior, for sure.

    K

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  8. I was wondering whether to join in on this book, but I read the first page and thought, maybe not, I'll wait till Sarraute.

    I quite enjoyed The White Castle thought, which is the only of Pamuk's I've read.

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  9. Wow. I read that selection, then read it again, wondering if maybe it was meant to be comedic, it's so over the top. If that is representative of the entire book, I can't imagine reading the whole thing, at least not taking it seriously!

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  10. I'm taking up your challenge and now you are telling me you are abandoning ship?! :)

    I read the book with trepidation but when Pamuk talks about the silence of the snow, it caught me there and had held me since. What you quoted from the book was really cheesey and I agree wholeheartedly with you but I'm happy to ignore those lovey dovey cheesey oozing yucky pickup lines and concentrate on the big message. I'll see what I think about it but certainly one I would like to finish.

    Better luck next month?

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  11. I read the first two chapters. I did notice the protagonist seeming to want to burst into tears at every opportunity. It could be Ka meant the second type of man to be those who marry mail order brides. :p

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  12. Ah, well, I'm about halfway through and actually like it. I interpreted that section you quoted as farcical. I see Ka as kind of a bumbling, awkward type of guy who doesn't know how this whole romance thing works and ends up kind of ridiculous. The social context is very interesting, with the suicides and the clash between secularism and radical Islam.

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  13. E.L. is on to something, although i would use different words.

    Ka in Snow = K in The Castle, if that is any help. The interactions with other characters have to start weird and get weirder.

    How are you doing with the poem crystal, E.L.?

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  14. Oh deary me, I too have not yet begun it and I was actually composing a post in my head on my drive home tonight about how I really don't intend to pick it up at all. What a disaster for The Wolves this month...

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  15. *Jill: Please let us know how that Subway sandwich experiment went when you have the time. Any new admirers? In the meantime, thanks for the compliment--I appreciate that you're always so kind to me when you're not actually busting my chops!

    *Bellezza: Thanks for the warning about The Museum of Innocence. I'll probably give Snow a second try at some point since I don't like abandoning books once I'm that far into them, but I way needed a breather right now. By the way, did you review the book somewhere where I could read about it? Anything you'd care to share regarding what you liked about it?

    *C.B. James: Since you're an educator of real young adults, I'm going to give you a pass on your otherwise indefensible defense of the burgeoning YA publishing industry. However, you're absolutely correct about bad writing being bad writing in any age range.

    *Frances: Tale-tail-ass was the logical thought process, of course, but I thought I needed another insult to highlight that "painful" reading we both so unfairly endured. On the love (or infatuation) at first sight thing, I can actually buy into that somewhat--but the way that Pamuk expresses the sentiment is so clumsy, both the concept and sandwiches become quite a turnoff. That Marías you mention will be much more worthwhile, I'm sure!

    *Emily: The passage in question was one of Pamuk's worst, so the rest of it should be relatively easier sledding for you. However, I walked away from this book feeling that the guy brings hardly anything to the table here. On that note, your official over/under for whether you have more Pamuk reading tolerance than I is either 206 or 207 pages. Good luck on your adventure, my friend!

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  16. *Amateur Reader: Your first line cracked me up all right, but I gotta tell you that I wish I'd been reading Atwood's Snow (or Kafka) instead of the one you and I were stuck with. Weird interactions with other characters is OK; boring and weird interactions with other characters is not so OK. Is the poem crystal puzzle worth reading on another 250 pages for?

    *Kevin: Just so you know, I'm much nicer in person. Except when I'm mean. Talking books over a beer would be mighty nice, though, no? Cheers!

    *Obooki: I didn't start hating the book till somewhere around the century mark, but I think you made the smart choice either way. Too bad for me that Snow's three times long as the good Pamuk novel.

    *Amanda: Taken out of context, I think you could find brief examples of bad writing in many a "good" book if you hunted long enough. However, I think it'd take some effort to find something quite as bad as the sample dialogue Pamuk churned out here. Whether it's over the top for comedic reasons is hard to say, though, because Pamuk's register/delievery is so monotone in the parts I read that it's hard to find any humor in it. It comes off as surpassingly mediocre, in fact, if you catch my drift!

    *JoV: I'm so sorry--I give you "permission" to drop out, too, if you need to! That being said, I'm glad you're finding the wait for the "message" worth waiting for and I hope it pays off for you in the end. I liked the political backdrop to the novel (the tension between the secular and the Islamist Turks), but I suspect this work has been overrated for the alleged importance of its themes rather than correctly judged for the obvious clunkiness of its storytelling. In any event, look forward to your post on the novel!

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  17. *Rise: You are a smart cookie--although maybe not as smart a cookie as Obooki, who wised up after just one page! Ka's quasi-mail order bride customer tendencies and his propensity for maudlin emotional swings notwithstanding, the character becomes even more annoying when he starts dropping everything at any time and place to start writing down his lameass poems at the drop of a hat. Not sure you got that far, but if you didn't, count your blessings!

    *E.L. Fay: I'm happy for anyone who enjoys this novel more than I enjoyed the first 200 pages of it. However, you've already proved your "tolerance" for crap by being one of the early defenders of Kristin Lavransdatter (before you finally came to your senses, that is) as I recall. So no more of this Ka is the Forrest Gump of Anatolia nonsense, please! All kidding aside, I agree that the social context is interesting but not to the point where I think its treatment redeems the uninteresting writing and the constant weather reports on how it's still snowing every two friggin' pages. Farcical + boring is just boring in the end (to me at least).

    *Sarah: Speaking of smart cookies, you might be the smartest one of all this month! Is your lack of interest a time thing or a sheer lack of interest, though? I had hopes for what E.L. Fay's getting out of the book, but they didn't materialize for me.

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  18. The poems are interpreted to form, when connected in certain ways, a snowflake. There's even a diagram somewhere near the end of the book. One might be reminded of Perec or Pale Fire.

    What I find fascinating is that reviewers, bloggish or otherwise, generally ignore this part of the novel - it's "about" the debate over head-scarves or the like. Obvious nonsense. The elaborate patterning of the poems has to be part of the meaning of the book, the Big Message.

    Unless it is an empty hoax, a meaningless gesture in the direction of Perec, etc.

    Worth reading on for this mystification? Oh, no no. But: I would love to be proven wrong, to be shown how this is all enormously clever.

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  19. This review made my morning! I usually just ignore books I abandon, but you have me thinking it might be more helpful to share!

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  20. Hombre... that's so trite... I'm tempted to turn my copy into a flying saucer or at least a cat toy. Cat toy it will be, he's already showing his pointy little teeth. I can only love a cat when I've seen him eat a book!

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  21. Caroline, that is hilarious...! I returned the book today without even cracking it open, due to a time thing, yes. I'd rather attempt to read the next Marias volume before the end of the month, although that too is looking impossible right now too...

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  22. Pamuks biuggest problem is he is bland he isn't a big bang writer ,I struggle with this and museum ,shame I love my name is red ,strangely enough I was speaking to a publisher that felt same as you do about him richard ,all the best stu

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  23. Oh dear, I have it on my shelf too.
    Neige t'as laissé complètement froid ou bouillant de rage? (this one was easy, I couldn't help it)

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  24. *Amateur Reader: Thanks for the info about the poems and how they've been mostly ignored in reviews. Can't say I'm all that surprised about the latter--I'd glanced at the list at the back of the book myself but then decided to leave it for later to figure out both because I figured that's what Pamuk desired and (the more important reason) the poem snippets themselves were so boring. Will take a look at that again if I ever decide to try and finish the book.

    *Col: Thanks for your comment and your visit! The ironic thing here regarding this post is that I usually ignore my abandoned books as well and will probably continue to do so in the future--just had to take out some hostility on this particular book because it had bugged me so much AND I wanted to explain to my group read partners why I was abandoning ship. Given the wonderful response to the post, maybe I should just stop reading all books halfway through and start posting about them in an incomplete state--I think I've finally found my calling as a blogger. Cheers!

    *Caroline: "Hombre...that's so trite." Ha ha, obviously you were more qualified to have written a blurb for this book than Margaret Atwood...and in "Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote" style/logic, I'd wager that your lack of familiarity with the book allowed you to approach it with a fresher perspective and a complete lack of bias! Loved your cat/sandwich parallel, especially that bit about his "pointy little teeth." Too funny!

    *Sarah: I agree with you about Caroline's comedic turn, and I wouldn't worry about rushing to finish the Marías. Take your time and savor it, just as I was unable to do with Pamuk!

    *Stu: "Bland" is probably a better description than "boring" for Pamuk in Snow, although maybe that doesn't matter so much since the cumulative impact of all that trite blandness is...boredom, for this reader and Frances at least. And although I've had My Name Is Red in the house for the last two or three years, I really wish I had read that one before I started Snow. You're not the first person to tell me that they really liked that one. Cheers!

    *Emma: Ha ha, tous les deux! L'un et l'autre!! Both!!! Would be interested in seeing your response to this book (to this point in my experience with Pamuk, I'm completely mystified regarding his stature as some great writer), but at the same time I wouldn't want you to suffer through the same sort of experience I've had with it. We all have better books to read, you know?

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  25. Ouch, I can't believe this is what Snow is. Why is this book still sitting on my shelf? Now I can feel okay about purging it because I think after that I will never be ready to pick it up and finally read it!

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  26. *Nicole: Ouch, indeed--purge away with a clear conscience if you know what's good for you. Profit from my unnecessary pain!

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  27. I really liked The Black Book by him and don't remember his writing being anything like that quote at all. Although I do have some doubts about the seriousness of the sentiments expressed in it - when does parody become trite writing, I wonder? But don't mind me - I always defend the author, because goodness only knows they can't defend themselves and we have it easy when we want to show our dislike or contempt.

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  28. *Litlove: I don't usually blame people for defending the author, but I know I'm in the right this time out, ha ha! Will have to finish this book or read My Name Is Red before I give up on Pamuk permanently, but there was a lot of trite writing in the first 200 pages that didn't exactly come off as parody. You're not the only person whose taste I respect who has enjoyed other books by him, though, so who knows? Weird.

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