TTT: Difficult Reads

TTTThis was pretty hard, actually. I wanted to choose books that were good books, but hard to read because of the subject matter. Apparently… I haven’t read many of them. I wonder if that’s a reflection on me as a reader, or the books i choose to read.

But 10 books i found, and here they are.

Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles
I really enjoyed the writing of this book. It was funny and descriptive, and utterly quoteable. But. The story was almost non-existent. As well-written as the words were, there was nothing pushing them along. I put this book down and didn’t read anything for weeks. That’s how bad it was. In the end I had to give up.

Canal Dreams by Iain Banks
This book just wasn’t that thrilling, really. Especially as the description on the back promised me a kick arse female cello player murder a load of evil men. It was interesting, reading chunks an the history of the Panama canal, but the different parts of the book felt very disconnected. Then there was the rape scene. That’s never going be not difficult to read.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
This book was just tense from the get go. It was brilliant, but not a good book to read before bed.

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft
Just… bad. Lovecraft is not good. I was rolling my eyes and cringing and just frustrated during this book. (This book I didn’t actually finish.) He can’t describe anything and his plots make little sense.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
This book really dragged. Things were often repeated to various degrees of detail. Lots of action and time would pass over a few pages, but then nothing would really happen and very little time would pass over entire chapters. It was inconsistent and failed to hold my attention or interest.

Chrome Yellow by Aldous Huxley
I really enjoyed this book, but it was the kind of book that takes a lot of concentration to read. I couldn’t just fall into it and let it pull me along, it made me work for it, made me pay attention. I could only manage one chapter before needing to take a break, and was often left feeling tired. A wonderful, wonderful book, though.

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters & Seymour: An Introduction by J.D. Salinger
This is two stories in one book, and it is the second story that I had difficulty reading. It is pages and pages describing Seymour. Fifteen of those pages are spent describing Seymour’s face. If Chrome Yellow left me tired, this book left me fast asleep.

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
This was hard to read in an eye-roll cringey way. This author (who is basing this story on her own experiences) is waving her arms and crying out desperately for attention. The book and narrative voice are inconsistent. She claims she did not have any mental health problems, but seems to enjoy the allure she believes being labelled with such gives her. Every word just screamed, “Me! Me! Pay attention to me!”

The Inheritors by William Golding
Another booked I loved, that makes the reader work for it. It is told from the point of view of Neanderthals, whose language and connection with the world and each other is vastly different and simple than our own. They used few words, and grasping the larger concepts they were trying to convey with them took some work, but was more than worth it. I saw this picture.

The Knitting Circle’s Rapist Annihilation Squad by Derrick Jensen and Stephanie McMillan
Another cringe-inducing book. Considering the subject matter, this book was verging on slapstick, and it embarrassed itself and the reader.


Care of Wooden Floors

13131066Title: Care of Wooden Floors

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…