Decisions, decisions…

June 9, 2010 at 9:24 am (Uncategorized)

I wasn’t so terribly in love with parts of Holidays on Ice, I must say…there are a couple of rather uneven inclusions in what is already a very slim collection…I don’t even know what to call them – persona pieces? Sedaris adopts a persona, a first person narrative voice not his own, and proceeds to tear satirical strips off the speaker, who spends his or her time on the page implicating him or herself in ever more staggering degrees of raging arsehole-ishness with each new word out of his or her mouth. Some-a-time she work, some-a-time she no work… and sometimes there’s a tenor shift that is jarring in a way that completely bypasses my funny bone. I’m sorry, but dead babies and murdered children never make me rock with mirth.

So now what to read? My choices are many… maybe Fugitive Pieces, which I bought aaages ago and which has been recommended to me umpteen times by different people. Maybe The Bath Fugues… maybe Brideshead Revisited

I just wandered over to inspect my TBR stash, and the decision’s made: Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger. I’ve not read any of her novels before, and I picked this up at Desire on Saturday because I liked the title. Her Fearful Symmetry: it just sounds good, creepy and foreboding. It has exactly the same promising heft of His Dark Materials, which I’ve not read either, but I do think it’s a delicious title for the Pullman trilogy and an intriguing one for the Niffenegger. I like their cadence; both titles succeed in piquing my interest.

While in Desire, I sat on a footstool and read the first few pages, waiting for Llew to make his selection (two Edward de Bono titles in the end) while at the same time still weighing up my own. I ultimately bought the book on the strength of pages 3 and 4, entitled The End, which made me cry. I know I’m more emotional at the moment because of the raging hormones, but I did find the scene – of a man crawling into the hospital bed in which his love has just died – intensely moving. Llew was crouched scanning a bookshelf  just in front of me – not close enough to reach out and touch, but in my direct sightline – and I found myself looking up from the book, hungrily taking in all his beloved familiarity, every detail of him but most especially the full sweep of his aliveness. And the unbearable dread thought of it, of his leaving me for all eternity or of my leaving him, added to the suffocating human foreknowledge of just such a fate, well, it completely overwhelmed me as I sat on my tiny stool, and it made me weep.

After silently sobbing over it like that, head bent low into the book as though it were riveting instead of a complete teary blur, I felt a sort of bond with it, and it seemed then that it simply must come home. Buying it felt like honouring the emotion it so soon wrenched from me; there’s something unforgettable about the awkward moment this novel and I have already shared that makes reading on seem like the very least I can do. So read on I shall, shaking out my first encounter from the dust of its pages, and discovering instead what it means to be about in its own terms rather than mine.

Don’t you just love reading novels? I do.



  1. bookgazing said,

    Yes! I always wonder how people go through life without reading novels, not necessarily because it’s somehow good for you to read, but rather because how do they not realise there’s something missing in life? There are all these wonderful emotions to be had from friendship and romance, living and doing, but at the same time there’s that wonderful extra facet that novels bring.

    • doctordi said,

      Bookgazing, that’s part of what always gets me – how could you *not* want to disappear into a story and encourage your faculties to make-believe? I just would never willingly give up my capacity to imagine things and people that do not exist, especially not when they have such a profound tendency to reveal truths about things and people that do.

  2. Lilian Nattel said,

    I would cry over that, too. And yes I do love reading novels, especially when I forget I’m reading.

    • doctordi said,

      Llewie was mercifully oblivious to my waterworks, Lilian – and I decided to keep this round to myself. Well. You know what I mean. I didn’t tell him, just all of you!!

      Yes, I absolutely love that transportive quality of novels. I always marvel at it once I’m returned to the present day.

  3. davidrochester said,

    Brideshead Revisited is my vote.

    I shared your feeling about Holidays on Ice … not Sedaris’ best work, and nowhere near the gut-wrenching hilarity of Naked , for example.

    • doctordi said,

      I might make Brideshead next. It’s starting to move in its box in a most impatient fashion.

      Not his best by a long shot. I actually *started* my Sedaris reading with Naked, so you can imagine how high my expectations were – I don’t know there’s any topping that for sheer comic brilliance. I laughed so hard at times that I was on the verge of a truly clinical hysteria.

  4. davidrochester said,

    I stopped typing too soon … I also meant to say that, typical of me, I took against the Niffenegger book the moment I saw the title (despite her past books having been highly recommended to me) because I was offended by the “cleverism” of the Blake misquote. Tyger Tyger is *sacred*, damn it!

    • doctordi said,

      David, you know, this is *terrible*, but I forgot about The Tyger… I missed the reference. Gosh, it’s been such a long time since I’ve read it… first year uni, I think… which is a pity, actually, because I really admire Blake, and I remember loving that poem. Anyway, personally I enjoy hints and appropriations like this subtle change of Niffenegger’s – in fact, now I’ll be looking out for embedded Blake-isms in the book, and that’s always fun, a game of literary hide-and-seek.

  5. plumbean said,

    i love novels. when people tell me that they do not really read if ind that i do not actually understand that sentence.

    love brideshead but then love blake too so maybe would love symmetry? i have been waiting for it to come out in paperback as a hardback is just to unwieldy to take into the ocean. bizarre i know but those are my criteria.

  6. doctordi said,

    Oh, Priya, I am the same. I just stare at them and wait for the translator to arrive.

    This copy of Symmetry *is* paperback, so it’s out there somewhere, ocean ready! My copy of Brideshead was a gift and is beautiful and leather-bound – I’m *saving* it in that weird way I do. Saving it for what, pray tell? Could. Not. Tell. You.

  7. Grad said,

    Tyger Tyger is my favorite poem. “Did he who made the lamb make thee” one of my favorite lines of all time.

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