Thursday, July 3, 2008

That They May Face the Rising Sun: I really wish I could enjoy this book

But it's driving me crazy. The slow pace, the stupid characters (by which I don't mean that the characters are badly done - on the contrary, stupidity is part of their nature), the constant use of the passive voice, the sort of skaz (I don't know if I'm using this term correctly) in the narrative... it all combines to make an extremely annoying book.

I see exactly what McGahern's doing (or I think I see it) and kudos to him, because it's brilliant. The book is a continuous stream of anecdotes, an exercise in the minutiae of characterisation and plot. It describes a year in the life of Joe and Kate Ruttledge and their neighbours. We meet the spine-chillingly horrid John Quinn, we hear the sad tale of Johnny, we learn about Bill Evans' unhappy childhood... it's all fascinating and beautiful, in its way. The prose mimics the slowness of life in a place where little happens, but everything that happens is news. It's a beautiful depiction of a place and an era, though it's not immediately clear to what era it belongs.

I think I'm too impatient, and that's why I can't like it. I'm constantly pressed for time at the moment, and I feel like I'm wasting it whenever I slip into the contemplative, relaxed state that I need to read this book. I thrive on tension, adrenaline, and that is something that has nothing to do with this wonderful book. I may finish it... one day. I may even get to it in the next few weeks or so, once all my assessment is over. In the meantime, I'll be moving on to The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster.

But what an amazing title!

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