Care of Wooden Floors
21 June 2014 Leave a comment
Author: Will Wiles
Summary: Oskar is a minimalist composer best known for his piece Variations on Tram Timetables. He lives with his wife and two cats in an unnamed Eastern European city. But this book isn’t really about Oskar. Oskar is in Los Angeles, having his marriage dismanteled by lawers. Meanwhile, he has entrusted an old friend to take care of his perfect, beautiful apartment.
Despite Oskar leaving extensive notes on how to keep his flat in pristine condition, a tiny oversight initiates a chain of farcical, and even fatal, disasters. Care of Wooden Floors is about loneliness, friendship and the quest for, and struggle against, perfection. And it is, a little, about how to take care of wooden floors.
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 2/5
Review: I bought this book on a whim from a bookshop. There were two books i actually wanted, but with a three-for-two offer on, i was adamant i would get another for free, and this was it. So, at least i can be glad i didn’t pay for it.
Fair disclosure: I didn’t finish this book. It left me in a reading rut for weeks, because i didn’t want to pick it up and carry on reading, so i didn’t read anything. Eventually i put it aside and started reading something else. I meant to get back to this book, but even now, months later… i don’t want to.
It’s a real shame, because there was so much about this book i did like. The writing, most of all, is wonderful, witty and more than a little quotable…
Aha, they would think, this is a man who knows how to use the tin opener.
There is a moment between sleeping and waking where one is free. Consciousness has returned, but awareness has yet to rip away the thin screen between the waker and his surroundings, his reality.
Neglect had a kind of gentleness to it that plucked at the sentimental. Time had passed here, undisturbed; I passed time there, undisturbed.
Regretful, after-the-event wisdom; the Germans must have a word for it. If they didn’t have such a word, they should. We rely on them for things like that.
Wiles has a wonderful way with words. I laughed often and also caught myself introspecting.
It is a shame, then, that Wiles doesn’t have a way with plot. For the time i was reading, not a lot actually happened. An unnamed narrator arrives at Oskar’s flat for an undetermined amount of time. He spends (too much) time describing the flat (in less-than-exciting detail; i hate useless over-description), and pondering what he will do. Then promptly does none of it. He gets drunk. A lot. And that’s about it.
I stopped reading during the events of a morning after a particularly heavy night of drinking, as the narrator explored Oskar’s flat to discern the damage he had wrought. Potentially, this was the point things got interesting, but i was already too bored by then.
The trouble was there was nothing driving the story. There was nothing driving me to pick the book up and keep reading. As well-written as it may have been, i found it had no substance.
A huge issue was my lack of connection (and actually, frustration with) the narrator. I found him self-centred and lazy and just, not a very good person. Not someone i could sympathise with at all. In all honesty, i preferred Oskar, the overly fastidious flat owner, absent as he was the entire time.
I feel sad having to give this book such a low rating, because there was so much that should have been so much better. But if i can’t even finish it, what use is it? Instead, i will have to imagine Oskar’s reaction when he returned home…