May 4, 2012

Cranky Books

I have read THREE books in a row that made me cranky.

ONE: A book that was on the Librarian Picks shelf. It was apocalyptic fiction, which means it goes in my library bag whether or not it's on the L.P. shelf. Then I read about 3 pages, thought, "What on earth is going on here?" and checked the cover to read the plot summary again to try to remember why I'd chosen it---and noticed it was published by a Christian publisher. Ah. That explains it. I tried another few pages just in case, but no. Apocalyptic fiction can have religious themes, and it can even have a subtle message ("Look what will happen to us if we don't stop experimenting with crop chemicals!")---but it's ruined if it's PREACHY.

TWO: Then I read Dan Chaon's Stay Awake, which is a book of pleasingly creepy short stories. I liked them very much, but they were kind of sad (lots of stress and death themes), and I couldn't figure out what was going on in ANY of them. So again and I again I was in a state of unsatisfied suspense, which made me feel irritable and stupid. Then I spent a couple of hours online trying to find stuff written by people who HAD figured them out, and all I could find was (1) one hint that did in fact let me figure out one single story---making it feel as if I should be able to figure out all the others, and (2) a lot of people saying most stories COULDN'T be figured out, which made me cranky because I don't like to be toyed with like that, plus I was frustrated because I'd wasted so much time looking for something that didn't exist.

THREE: Then I read a book that I NEVER would have chosen if it hadn't been on the Librarian Picks shelf, and this book CLOSED THE DOOR on the L.P. shelf for me. It was narrated by a dog. The dog had a lot of insightful observations to make about human beings (we should listen more! we only get sick and die because we BELIEVE we will! and we should live in the NOW, just like the racecar driver who constantly anticipates the future and repeatedly watches tapes of the past! ...wait, what?). And it was sentimental/weepy fiction written by a man. Some people right now are going to want the name of the book because this is exactly their thing; for me, that is like the perfect trinity of unreadability. AND YET I READ IT ALL THE WAY TO THE END because I had to know how the unearned-suspenseful plot was going to resolve, so then I felt irritable and crabby but had only myself to blame. That's an unhappy place to be, let me tell you.


No, wait, it's FOUR cranky books, because before these three I read Unorthodox!

Now I'm reading Richard Russo's Bridge of Sighs, and if I don't like it I'm going to spend the weekend reading People magazine and watching television.

33 comments:

Laura Diniwilk said...

Now I really want to read stay awake so we can discuss. If only I had TIME for such things. I'm barely chugging through 50 shades right now (I read like 4 pages and fall asleep). The fact that you read so many books makes me optimistic that some day my kids will be old enough to entertain themselves so I can read again!

Becky said...

On the one hand, I really want you to like Bridge of Sighs because I'm such a Russo fan. On the other, it is one of my favorite things in the world when you live-tweet a People Mag reading. So, win-win?

Barb said...

Ugh, I love to read so much and I hate when I get a dud of a book. Such a disappointment.

Are you on Goodreads by chance? I have given up on trying to pick books without getting recommendations/reading reviews on that website. I cull a list of favorites from people on there (and conversely, know what to avoid, too, usually from a cousin who loves cheesy stuff that I hate, etc.)

Gina said...

I'm curious what the first one was, because I just bought a book that sounded similar, based on a nook deal and after I bought it, I saw that it was Christian based and now I am not particularly interested any more.

But I will say, I LOVED The Art of Racing in the Rain - I read it years ago and it is one of my favorites. I also read another dog-as-narrator book called A Dog's Purpose, and really liked it too. But I never thought I would like dog narrator books before I read them.

Tess said...

I just finished a book I think you might like! Drop Dead Healthy, by A.J. Jacobs.

It's nonfiction; the author is an (out-of-shape) writer for Esquire magazine who decides to spend 2 years trying out various healthkicks.

(You: actually that sounds like something YOU would like, Tess).

(Me: I DID like it, but I also think you would)

Swistle said...

Barb- I'm not...yet. I suspect that's going to be one of those things I don't do and don't do and don't do---and then I'll finally sign up and be like "WHY IS EVERYONE ELSE NOT DOING THIS??"

Gina- I returned it to the library and I don't think I'd even recognize the title. But it was something about some small town that was going to be the first town to experience the capital-A Apocalypse.

Tess- Ha ha ha! I love the dialogue part of this comment! I laughed audibly, more than once!

MomQueenBee said...

Let me know about the Russo book--I just bought it off the $1 pile in the Dusty Cover, but I'm already cranky enough with the book I'm reading that I don't want to continue in this mood. Stephen King sucked me into "The Dome" with "11/23/63," which I liked, but TD is one of those books that you've invested so much time in halfway through that you don't want to quit, but it's not much fun.

Swistle said...

MomQueenBee- I felt kind of cranky about The Dome too. It has that "powerful manipulative guy losing his mind in a dangerous way and repeating words/phrases over and over" character S.K. likes so very much, and I found the ending unsatisfying. I also found I had a lot of questions afterward, like "Hey, why didn't they just...?" and "Didn't anyone...?"---like, people's behavior didn't make sense to me. CRANKY.

Leeann said...

Swistle, I second Tess's suggestion of A.J. Jacob's book.
I'm currently reading an older book of his called "The Year of Living Biblically." This is NOT a religious book as he is an agnostic, but rather a book in which he does an experiment and tries to keep the literal biblical laws. Parts of it are laugh-out-loud funny. I'm on the reserve list for his new one.

Goodreads is pretty awesome. You should check it out at some point.

So how are the kids all doing? Did instrument practice get better? School problems there or ironed out? Update!

Leeann said...

Oh, and because I am curious- did you end up liking the Funtainer thermoses? Did they work for you?

Life of a Doctor's Wife said...

We had to read Art of Racing in the Rain for book club and most of the book club LOVED it and I got about three pages in and said, "Nope, not reading this." It made me cranky just to have to TRY to read it and then I was cranky because I don't like slacking on the book club reading and then I was MORE cranky because all the other book clubbers liked it. CRANKY.

And then our last pick for book club was the last in a series - a series that we hadn't READ at ALL - and it was a "romantic thriller" and THAT made me cranky and then we pledged to read at least 75% of the book because we are not good at READING the books for our book club so I tried very hard to read it and it was terrible (cranky) and then only TWO PEOPLE in book club had read it or even TRIED to read it (cranky). And now we have to read 50 Shades for our next book club (and the sequels for the two following book clubs) and it doesn't appeal to me at ALL despite all of the Internet hype and so I am CRANKY.

Perhaps you are thinking I should quit book club. Well, that thought is making me cranky TOO.

M.Amanda said...

I once got tricked into reading a collection of gothic romance short stories. I figured out the gothic part after finishing the fifth story and saying once again, "I don't know why it pisses me off so much that there is no happiness in the end because I HATED all the characters. They deserve to be miserable."

I don't need a HEA all tied up neatly with a bow every single time, but five sad endings in a row is just depressing. I feel the same about heavily symbolic stories. I don't need to figure it out every time, but don't be so obscure that it can't be done by any reader.

swimmermom said...

You should be on Goodreads. Please, please, please! There are some seriously funny and excellent reviewers whose book recommendations I trust just because they so obviously share my sensibilities. The book reviews you post here would fit right in over there. I think you would love it maybe almost as much as you love Postcrossing! (<-- now you HAVE to check it out, right?)

cakeburnette said...

I wanted a 'like' button for your last sentence. :)

Swistle said...

Leeann- I generally like the Funtainers, but I've had the same problem everyone else has with mold in the straw. I have little brushes (made for baby bottles), but the mold stains the plastic. Bleah.

Anonymous said...

Yikes! It makes me want to recommend books to you, but also fearful that you might not like them.

The book I've recommended the most over the past 10 years is "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time", by Mark Haddon. I think it's so original and thought-provoking, and amazing. But possibly not your cup of tea at all.

Also some of my favorite authors... Have you read Terry Pratchett? Dick Francis? Fay Kellerman?

Swistle said...

Anonymous- I read the Mark Haddon book; I don't remember it except I remember I liked it. I do like Terry Pratchett, but I think I've read too many of his books now. The name Fay Kellerman is so familiar I thought I'd read her, but none of her books look familiar; I think I must be thinking of Fay Weldon. I haven't read any Dick Francis.

Brenna said...

In the realm of books narrated by dogs that are NOT irritating, I whole-heartedly recommend the Chet and Bernie mysteries by Spencer Quinn. The series starts with Dog On It.

Suburban Correspondent said...

Sometimes? Literacy can be irritating. Read A Mountain of Crumbs, if you like a good memoir.

And Blogger has a comment mode now where you can put your reply under individual comments, if you're interested. Somewhere in settings...

Maggie said...

My FIL gave me the dog book that shall remain nameless. I knew where it was going from the beginning but read it all even though I KNEW at the outset it was going to leave me a sobbing mess at the end. The only good thing to come of it was that my dog got some extra love for a few days.

Christy said...

Ugh, agree on racing in the rain. I read/skimmed it all the way to the end just to find out what happened,but like you said...in an unearned suspenseful plot resolution kind of way. A few people have recommended this book to me, and I'm just not sure why.

Buttercup said...

Swistle! I have been poring through your archives finding book recommendations for a travel-intensive trip I'm going on. I came across your old recommendation of The Mysterious Benedict Society, and I'm downloading it to my Kindle now! But wait! There's more! It's also illustrated by Carson Ellis, and if "recommended by Swistle" wasn't enough, I LOVE Carson Ellis's illustrations. Hooray! Also, um, hope you come across some better books soon.

Swistle said...

Suburban Correspondent- I've been seeing that! I poked around under Comments and under Settings:Comments and couldn't find it either place, so I kind of gave up. I'll probably stumble across it someday and then do it!

StephLove said...

This reminds me to tell you I really enjoyed Elegies for The Brokenhearted I won from your contest. Thanks! Don't think I'll be rushing out to find any of these, though.

Swistle said...

Suburban Correspondent- Mystery solved: threaded comments are only an option for embedded comment forms.

Shelly said...

HAHAHA!!! I am insanely proud that I recognized The Art of Racing in the Rain from your description! I HATED that book. My book club has me roped into ANOTHER damn dog book - A Dog's Purpose. I already hate it and I just started it yesterday. Everyone says it gets better toward the middle, but I am DOUBTFUL.

Also, I LOVE Bridge of Sighs. I like Richard Russo a lot, and that is one of my two faves by him (the other is Empire Falls).

Jessica said...

My husband really liked that dog book and recommended I read it. I thought dog-as-narrator sounded stupid.

Alice said...

I LOVE these cranky book reviews so much! (from the commenters as much as from you, swistle!) i swear, they're better than reading the books half the time.

i'm so glad my book club does not trend toward dog-narrated books. i did throw a tantrum when someone recommended one of the Tucker Max books though. i will NOT support that kind of crap, and if my bookclub knows what's good for them, they won't either :)

Bibliomama said...

YOU MUST GO ON GOODREADS. Ahem. Sorry. I love the reviews and recommendations, but more than anything I love having my to-read and read lists in a place where I CAN'T LOSE THEM. Then again, you have five kids and haven't misplaced any, so you're clearly more organized than I am. Cranky book reviews are often more fun to read than happy ones. I read a novel by Dan Chaon that, surprisingly, when I look at my review on Goodreads, I ended up liking, but all I remember while reading it was feeling CRANKY.

Stephanie said...

Just throwing in my peer pressure for you to join Goodreads. I just finished Heat by Bill Buford, which I loved, but perhaps that is because I enjoy food writing.

Bitts said...

You will love Bridge of Sighs, Swistle. It's languid and meaty, and if that's not a positive rec, I don't know what is.

nicole said...

I knew that The Art of Racing in the Rain was the book you were talking about by the description. I can't remember if I ever actually read it or not though. Because a dog narrator would not be appealing ot me.

I also think I have read Bridge of Sighs and was at least a little disappointed. None of his books have been as good as Empire Falls for me.

I'm reading a book called The Passage. It is post-apocalyptic fiction including a vampire element and it is very bizarre but still interesting. Hard to explain without making it sound dumb, but it is good, so far.

-R- said...

I love Richard Russo, but Empire Falls is probably my least favorite of us, unless your other commenters. I hope you liked Bridge of Sighs.