The Sunday Salon (To read or not to read) -- May 22, 2011

Sunday, May 22, 2011


The Sunday 
Salon.com

Around evening yesterday, I just received this email from the Overdrive department of my library. 
The following title is now available for check out and will be held for you for 4 days from the time this email was sent:
  A Visit from the Goon Squad
  by: Jennifer Egan
  Adobe EPUB eBook
Yay??

I don't even remember when I requested the book. It probably was during the time when this book was beginning to be talked about and it may or may not have won the Pulitzer. There was still a lot of buzz around it and I imagined then that it may not even be a theme that I'd feel intimate with. But I was all for exploring beyond my reading boundaries and so I requested this ebook from my library. I believe the waiting list on overdrive was about 7 or 8 at the time; at my library, it was much more than that. Not one to willingly be in the dark when the whole world was "apparently" reading a much-talked about book, I jumped into the pool.

And then the drama happened. Oh, you know which I'm talking about.

Banal writing... Derogatory chick-lit... Incompetent women writers...

Even though these "banal" writers have probably sold more copies, and made a lot of readers smile and gush.

But this post isn't about that, although I have some very strong opinions about this topic. (You are free to email me if you want to hear me rant a bit.) Besides, it was a long time ago in public memory and the internet age, and apologies were made and all has been forgotten.

The outcome? Jennifer Egan's book has slipped from my must-read to my to-read to my maybe-sometime bookshelf. I might even have removed it from my bookshelves at some point. But it definitely was my most-moved-about book on Goodreads over the last couple of months.

And now, I realized I can still read the book. The 7 or 8 people before me have presumably read it, raved about or slammed it, and I can find for myself what I think. But, I'm not able to make myself want to read it. Was it the drama that did it? Or all the hype and the awards? Or the fact that the writing must definitely be stellar, maybe even boring, considering that this book brought forth a debate between serious and light women's fiction? I usually read serious lit, so that shouldn't bother me. Then why am I hesitant to read this book?

Vasilly mentioned to me on twitter yesterday that she had just sent it back to the library, unread, and I've heard similar statements from many others, so I know I'm not alone. When Goodreads announced that its first book club pick is going to be A Visit from the Goon Squad, I won't be surprised if there were many groans - there have been many people who weren't so enthused with the selection.

If you have read this book or yearn to read it, please try to inspire me. If you haven't, why do you choose not to read it? It might be good after all, right? One thing I know - whether or not I read it, I will definitely check out her powerpoint chapter. Every review on this book seems to mention it.

24 comments:

bermudaonion (Kathy) said...

I've been wanting to read this one ever since it won the Pulitzer Prize, but I haven't gotten a copy of it, so I haven't felt the urgent need to read it.  I want you to read it, so I know if I should get it!

ashbrux said...

 I've heard a lot of great things about this and I always passed if off as a stupid book. I'd really like to read it someday, but right now I'm struggling to read popular books because they've already been reviewed so frequently.

Books in the City said...

As I mentioned on twitter, I am about to start this for book club and since telling people I am going to be reading it I have gotten two very divergent responses - either "It is amazing, best book I ever read, etc" or "I couldn't finish it, it was terrible, overhyped, etc"  I am curious about how I will react to the book. 

christa @ mental foodie said...

Doesn't sound like my type of book so I'll pass personally :)

Iris said...

 I think I must have missed the drama. Now I'm curious. I'd love to hear you rant, btw!

Athira / Aths said...

 Haha! Now that is the perfect way to get me to read it. :) Now I feel inspired. I think I will pick it after all.

Athira / Aths said...

 I get really bugged by the most-reviewed-books. There's only so much you can tolerate any book. But, in this case, I haven't seen too many reviews, just all this hoopla in the news and something or the other in the book industry about this book everyday.

Athira / Aths said...

 I've also only heard the two responses. There's been no middle ground. It's interesting that a book can trigger so much reaction. I'll be looking forward to your thoughts.

Athira / Aths said...

 I just wish I could say something like that. There's a part of me that wants to read this. But there's another part that's just tired of it.

Athira / Aths said...

 Oooh, you should certainly check it out. There was just so much hue and cry at the time. I think most bloggers just chose not to post about it though I saw plenty of tweets regarding this debate. It was just so distasteful. One author slamming a whole group of authors in her Pulitzer acceptance speech! Whatever happened to supporting fellow women writers?

Laurel-Rain Snow said...

I read this one last year, when it was an ARC from Amazon Vine.  I usually enjoy this author, but this particular book was not a favorite.  There were parts that were quite enjoyable, but I found the flipping from past to present and back again did not flow smoothly for me.  And then one chapter was written like a Power Point presentation.  Now some readers LOVED this part.

So, to each her/his own.

If you're really curious, you should decide for yourself.

Here's

MY
SUNDAY SALON POST

Athira / Aths said...

I guess you're right. I'll probably wait a couple of days, and if I still don't feel like reading it, I'll send it back, or else maybe I'll give it a try. Maybe I can still try a couple of pages and decide if it's for me. 

hcmurdoch said...

 I have not read this and don't really plan to. With so many good and great books on your TBR list, you could probably skip this one

Nadia said...

Aths, I loved this book! It was such a good read! I do hope you give it a chance- would love to find out what you think of it! 

Athira / Aths said...

That's my argument with myself too. I won't know what I'm missing until I actually read it. So since I'm not too interested in it right now, I can easily forgo it. I might just wait a day or two and if I'm still feeling uninterested, then it's goodbye to the book. 

Athira / Aths said...

Nadia, I'm glad to hear that you really loved it. That makes me feel better. I may just read a few pages and see what I feel. 

Lena said...

I think you should try to read atleast several chapters and then see if it needs to be put down. I have books like that on my shelf. Books that were raved about and then once I try to read the first page, I"m bored. And on the shelf it goes. I have probably a hundred books like that actually. I'm going to read them. But I need a quick kick in the bootay to get me started. As a matter of fact, I'm going to pick one today and try to finish it. I'm trying it, you should too. :-) 

Judith said...

 I agree with the others: Just start reading, e.g., 30 pages or so and then decide whether you like it. It can't be that nobody likes the book or it would not have been published. Maybe you're one of the people that love it!

Athira / Aths said...

After thinking about this over the past two days, I realized that I'm eager to try this one now. At least, like you said, give it the benefit of doubt and check out a few chapters and then decide. I just might love it. :) Thanks for the tip!

Athira / Aths said...

I agree! That's kind of what I don't want to miss out on - if it happens to be the kind of book I'll love! I'm increasingly inclined to giving it a try and checking it out!

Jennygirl said...

Well apparently I have been under a rock or somewhere else because I missed the hype over this title.  I'm always late to the party anyway.  I say regardless of everything that has happened, breathe deep, and crack it open.  Give it 50 pages and see what happens.  There is no rule that say you have to finish a book!

Athira / Aths said...

Oh you haven't been living under a rock! I just happened to hear about this because I chanced upon a light vs serious women fiction debate, and I was all like why are we even talking about this. Turns out, I was living under a rock. Still, I'm planning to give this book a try. I'm really curious now, after so many of you suggested that I give it a few pages.

Lisa said...

My book club always tries to read the Pulitzer winner so I did just pick this one up the other day. It really was one that, for some reason, didn't appeal to me when the buzz first started so I guess I'll go into it without ridiculously high expectations which should help.

Athira / Aths said...

I guess it should help keeping expectations low. I wish there was not much talk about this book. I did check out a chapter of this book and so far, it looks interesting.