Together in Spirit

An online reading group ('TIS a reading group!) to bring together friends, and friends of friends, who aren't able to be in a conventional reading group due to constraints of time or geography.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Yes, we're all individuals

Well, I'm glad you're all busy being individuals and choosing to read books which some of us wouldn't have thought you'd like... makes life much more interesting, doesn't it? (Note to Helen D: Kirsty is independent-minded, so it's not exactly surprising that she tries a book which nobody was recommending, and seizes upon an author who some of the rest of us specifically don't want to read! You go ahead and enjoy such things, Kirsty! Just don't make me read Tess again.)

Not to veto Helen Dunmore, but let's do Linda Grant and then perhaps Bel Canto by Ann Patchett in December, and see how we go. I was thinking back to an earlier post by Helen S, which clarified my thinking somewhat. She was saying - excuse any inaccurate precis - that it was both the destination and the journey which mattered to her in a novel. I found that so helpful in thinking what I tend to object to in books. I think it's like the means to the end - I can't be happy with an ethical choice if I'm uncomfortable with either the means or the end. So, a badly-written book with a happy ending is unsatisfying for me personally (eg chick lit, perhaps?!), but so is an exquisitely-written novel whose final effect is bleak. I don't demand Happy Endings as such, but if the book sucks all the joy out of me and haunts me, without some redeeming hopeful notes, I count that as counterproductive. (eg Beloved - sorry, Mum!). That said, I know we need grit to make the oyster, so I try to be open-minded if the case for the book is put persuasively enough... Many of the transcendant books I have read seemed too bleak initially. My votes for such would be things like The Shipping News, The Bone People, The End of the Affair. Anyone else got any votes?