Thursday, February 23, 2006

Another List

Thanks to Atenah's meme, there's been a bit of a buzz about the books we love. The variety of views generated has been so diverse and interesting. Just goes to show how different books have touched us in so many ways. Or the same book in different ways.

Talking about favourite books got me thinking about those books that have disappointed me: I am not talking about sappy chic flick, especially the ones featuring Indian weddings ala Life Isn't all Ha Ha He He (Meera Syal) or Greek weddings or groom hunting culminating in wedding sort of book or Hollywood-script-disguised-as-book of fiction ie Da Vinci Code :you get the drift. (Aside. My social life has dwindled since I refused to proceed beyond chapter 1 of Dan Brown's bestseller. There are some people who will never admit me to their dinner parties anymore as a result. Even when I promise to bring along some lovingly made mushroom risotto. Such is life).

Coming back to the point. I am referring to those books that leave me wanting. The ones I could not wait to acquire, looked lovingly at its cover and gingerly traversed. The ones that all of a sudden, throw an about-turn. The ones that cause all aforesaid expectations to crash into smithereens. Failing in such an inexplicable way. At such a moment, the disappointment leaves a deep rend. No worst, it feels like walking in shoes without soles. You find yourself dragging along all the pebbles and sand that you don't want to.To give Dan Brown some credit, at least he doesn't have pretensions- he is just telling a story to be sold to Hollywood. Just like those chick flicks which sometimes, can be bearable at airport lounges/rail terminals.

But the books that I am referring to come under another guise.

I had expected so much more from them and in the wake of the disappointment, leave me with one of those 'what the hell' feelings. If I had an analogy, it would be all the men one considers 'partner' material but after a few dates, discard upon discovery that they are two dimensional cut-outs. Here's my lot.

1. Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. The problem with this book is that it seduces the book lover with such an enchanting premise. A cemetery of forgotten books. Dark mystery. But the tackiest twist and turns ever. I was looking for Delia Smith Tiramisu. I get Tesco sponge cake.

2. Brick Lane by Monica Ali. I think that this is one of the most overrated books. So, woman marries boring man. She has affair with young insurgent in crotch hugging jeans. Who cares? For this, she gets to be on the Granta list?

3. The House of Blue Mangoes by David Davidar I expected so much more before reading. It turned out to be exotica served on a platter of limp storyline. Don't bother.

4. Lady Chatterley's Lover by DH Lawrence. Just a disguise for crude sex. Eukh.

5. In the Eye of the Sun by Ahdaf Soueif. I just don't get this book. Its supposed to be all about sexual liberation of middle eastern women and what not but the protagonist keeps on pining for a man who will emotionally and physically abuse her. Sprinkling a book with phrases like 'sexual imperialist' does not make it groundbreaking. Or maybe that’s the whole point? I'll be glad if someone can change my mind on this one.

Have I offended anybody with this list, particularly the legion of Da Vinci Code fans ? Let me know. I am always open to opinions/criticism/insights. But gently now. *hides face in self protection* Or does anybody want to share their 'books that disappoint' list? Maybe it includes Franny and Zooey. All's fair in bookish love and war.


starlight said...

Your feedback on House of Blue Mangoes came just in time. Was deliberating whether or not to pick it up at the Times warehouse sale. Phew!

Books that disappointed me were:
Harry Potter & The Order of The Pheonix - too much teenage angst. Got rather irritating and overshadowed the story's original magic.

Da Vinci Code - I'm with you here. Never got past the first chapter.

The Bus Stopped (Tabish Khair) - The synopsis was so promising!!!!

Sula (Toni Morrison) - Had been waiting to read Morrison for so long, but we just didn't hit it off. I finished the book feeling absolutely nothing.

Lydia Teh said...

Jane, haven't been here for a long time. The last time I tried to come, couldn't excess it. Anyway, I like the new look. More stylo. About House of Blue Mangoes, I bought it when the author was in KL for a book talk. Couldn't get past the first few chapters. Still lying unread in my bookshelf. Anybody wants to have it??

Lydia Teh said...

Jane, sorri about typo : access not excess!!

Jane Sunshine said...

Starlight: That's just a personal opinion though. There may be some who think otherwise. Agree about Harry Potter as well. Its become very tiring since.

Lydia: Nice to see you here. I was at the same author's talk as well! Small world.

ichatteralot said...

Khushwant Singh's In Company of Women is the worst book I have ever read...

Jane Sunshine said...

Ah, Kushwant Singh. Doyen of bad sex and profanity. I have been fortunate enough to stay away from him.

bibliobibuli said...

oh yes, i have to do this too!!

Jane Sunshine said...

Diran Kesuma: Hello and welcome.

Sharon: Please do it! I would so look forward to your list.

Anonymous said...

Hi, bored sitting in my publishing office in London and came across your blog. Agree with you about Brick Lane and House of the Blue Mangoes, never even attempted Da Vinci code but spouse loved it (no accounting for taste). I thoroughly enjoyed Salaam Brick Lane (Tarquin Hall) but I live in the East End so can relate to it, and I think that makes shed-loads of difference. re Lady C, I think taken into context it was a pretty controversial book for its time.

Jane Sunshine said...

Hello Joanna. Now, I must add Salaam Brick Lane to the never-ending-must-read-list!

I agree that Lady Chatterley was v.controversial when it was published but still, Lawrence never made me empathise with the characters. Maybe I was more disappointed as I came to the book after reading Sons and Lovers and had very high expectations.

Shan said...

I find it strange that three of the commentators here feel great about NOT having read The DaVinci Code. Why? I can understand if someone reads and does not like the book, but making a virtue of not reading a bestseller just because it is a bestseller ot because someone scoffed at the style is unwarranted, snobbish, and plain stupid.

As for Jane, you are welcome to your judgement, though the fact that after 10 pages, you had to give it up suggests that you probably either prefer other genres or just go by a gut reaction. This is borne out by your summary judgment on Khushwant Singh as well. If you had been slightly more open minded, you would have read Train to Pakistan and his collection of essays, India, and then decide. But you and your ilk obviously would not stoop to that level of reading, and prefer instead to dismiss him as "Doyen of bad sex and profanity".

Jane Sunshine said...

Hello Shan. I can't answer for others but I do think that they were saying that they never got around reading Da Vinci or that they never liked it after a certain part. As for me, how I choose my books currently does depend on gut feeling and often, tried and tested writers. I read minimum 20 journal articles and 2 books a week for work related purpose and at the end of the day, would rather watch some idiot TV. Da Vinci Code is one of the victims in this process. This also means that I have to be extremely selective about the books I read otherwise, I wont have a life beyond my books....I tend to take reviews and word of mouth into account as a result. Kushwant Singh fell into this unfortunate category.

One of the reasons I wrote this is also to hope that some ppl could change my mind about some of these books. Sometimes, various external factors influence how I feel about a book for egs if I am tired.

Shan said...

Jane, You reaction to my post sounds far more reasoned and convincing than the earlier comment.

I too like to read, though I hardly get time nowadays with my job and all. But one thing I do consciously, barring two pretentious years when I was doing my MA in Literature, is NOT to make a distinction between bestsellers and the so called "literary" novels. That distinction is usually made by literature students and self conciously "art-house" leftists. And frankly, I find it illogical and extremely irritating. I consider some of the writing by Robert Ludlum (The Gemini Contenders), Alistair MacLean (HMS Ulysses, for one), Louis L'amour (The Walking Drum), and Harold Robbins (the wonderful A Stone for Danny Fisher) as good literature as I have ever read.

You will not agree, but I will give you the right to be convincing in your disagreement only after you have read these. Otherwise you will prove yourself to be just a snob.

Oh, and yes, The Da Vinci Code was a damn good read. And from a social perspective, it is a great milestone. It has raised questions about social and religious issues that needed to be asked, and for that only, if not anything else, it is a great book.

Jane Sunshine said...

Oh, now you are implying that I am a snob! But if I was, would I be interested in knowing what other ppl thought about various books?

I am a totally random reader and read both popular fiction and more literary ones according to whim. I haven't read the books that you have mentioned but that's just a reflection of how limited my reading is, not because I wouldnt want to read them. I've read everything by Erich Segal and Helen Fielding for example. The books you mentioned would definitely be something I would consider esp L'Armour whom I've always meant to read.

One of the reasons I turned away from Dan Brown which I should have mentioned earlier was because I had read the non-fiction book from which it was based aeons ago(the ppl who are suing him now) and therefore the book offered me nothing new.

Now though I have to go an read up on corporate theory. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

A bit late in the day, but apropos your comment on Lady Chaterley's lover there is a lot more going on than sex (crude? in this day and age? When I read it years ago I found it pleasantly erotic) It's all about class and Lawrence writes such good prose so if you didn't like Lady Ch, try Sons and Lovers, a book to make you realise why there are Lawrence fans in the world.

Jane Sunshine said...

Deborah Jabberwock fan: I am another Jabberwock fan!!! Lady C's Lover is a personal opinion. I just thought that the books lacked substance and it merely cashed in on the controversy that surrounded it. But Sons and Lovers, I agree, is written from another, more sublime level altogether.See my eulogy in latest post. I also like Lawrence's cheeky poems.