Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Sunday Salon: A Disgruntled Reader Post

The Sunday Salon.comCurrently, I'm in a Very Bad Mood.

I shouldn't be.  Sam and the kids are great, I started cake decorating class yesterday and had a blast, I'm drinking a cup of delicious coffee while Atticus plays and we enjoy an early, lazy Sunday morning.

But, seriously, my attitude stinks and it all has to do with a reading slump.

January was a fabulous month for me in terms of reading.  I read three fabulous books:  The Night Circus, Our Mutual Friend, and the latest volume of Joe Hill's Locke and Key graphic novel series.  I also read one book that I loved up until the last 30 or so pages and I'll talk about that more in a bit.  I think there are four reasons why I'm in slump-mode:

Reason #1:  January was Too Darn Good

When I'm finished with a spectacular book I find that I'm a little spoiled.  Everything else pales in comparison and I'm left trying to get over my awesome book pile so I can read books that are good (just not as good). 

Reason #2:  A String of Duds

Since finishing Our Mutual Friend I decided that I should read something short and fun before picking up Tomalin's Charles Dickens bio.  Everything I've tried to read hasn't just been a "not the right time book."  No, they have utterly sucked.  First I picked up a short story anthology called Dickensian Whodunnits.  I have owned this for a few years and I've really been looking forward to reading it.  It sucked.  I tried several stories.  The stories are mysteries with some element of Dickens in them (from his life or concerning a character from his book).  The problem is that each author in the anthology attempts to cram in historical context of the plot of the novel in an awful artificial fashion.  Imagine loads of awkward dialogue with characters dropping sentences about Victorian times like a bad after-school special. 

Reason #3:  Sally Lockhart

 I read the first book in Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart mystery series last year.  The Ruby in Smoke was phenomenal.  If you are unfamiliar, this is a YA series about a plucky Victorian girl who solves mysteries.  The Ruby in the Smoke was like Sherlock Holmes meets The Moonstone for kids.  I loved it.

I moved on to the second book in the series, The Shadow in the North.  Here Sally is in her early twenties, went to Cambridge, and now has her own financial consulting business.  I liked the book until the last bit.  *****SPOILER ALERT*****
I lost interest when Sally willingly gave up her virginity to her beau in the middle of  trying to figure out how to stop the bad guys and the bad guys are pretty much currently in pursuit.  That felt awkwardly placed and out of character for Sally, her beau, and the time period.  Then, of course, after that one sexual encounter all hell breaks loose.  The beau dies in a fire, she blows up the bad guy, is buried under rubble, but miraculously survives.  And she is pregnant. And totally cool with it.  The book was okay, but I felt like that bit was stuck in there just to be shocking.

I was sticking with it until I tried reading the third book, The Tiger in the Well.  Here Sally is living with her male photographer friends from the earlier book, working, and raising her daughter.  Then a stranger shows up saying he is married to Sally and that her daughter belongs to him and he will take her.  Pullman uses this as a chance to showcase unfair marriage laws of the Victorian period.  The other historical bits in there concern the rise of socialism and the prejudice against Jews in England.  This book felt.... contrived.  Sally is an orphan with a Cambridge education, her own business, a pistol, a single mother, and she lives with a bachelor males.  Until this stranger shows up life is peachy.  I know Pullman wants to portray a strong Victorian heroine, but her life is too peachy for a modern-day single mother, let alone one in Victorian England.  I feel like Pullman is being heavy-handed with his expose of Victorian inequalities and not functioning in the realm of reality.

I had to put it down.  Bummer. 

Reason #4:  I Have no Time

Crafting. Exercising. Baking. Kids. An attempt to go to bed before midnight.  All of these things mean less time reading. What is really pissing me off is not being able to read when I do get the time.  I've quit eating my lunch at my work desk and I've been frequenting the break-room  (my desk is piled with projects and research at the moment) and this means that people KEEP TALKING TO ME.  Even when I indicate that I wouldn't like to be bothered they are in there yapping.  Ugh.  And then when I get a chance to read at home it is late at night and I can't focus.


All this to say -- I am in a slump and it is zapping my joy.  When I don't have time to read I turn into a surly booknerd and it ain't pretty.

I don't quite know what to do to lift myself out of this slump.  I may just go ahead and tackle the Tomalin biography because I can't stand not reading or worse, reading shit. 


Ellen said...

It has been so long since I've had a reading slump, and I'd forgotten how unpleasant it can be. When I get in a slump I try, again and again, to pick up books, but never get more than a few pages in before giving up. So, thanks for reminding me to be thankful that I haven't had this problem for years. (Watch one start tomorrow, now that I am being all grateful for wanting to read every day.)

I want to reread the Sally Lockheart books, I love Pullman, but I remember having some of the same issues with the books. I mean, I was about 14 when I read them so I didn't phrase things as well as you have here, but after the first book there were so many elements to Sally's story that felt contrived and that didn't jibe well with the tone of the first book. I hope that when I go back for a reread I'll like Shadow & Tiger more than I did the first time round...but maybe I shouldn't count on it, since the first novel is the only of the series I've read more than once. Probably a reason for that, right?

Andi said...

If your readerly mojo is saying go for the Tomalin, just give it what it wants.

And I know what you mean about fitting everything in. I've pretty much given up trying to do anything but work, take care of G, and read. Housework and exercise can kiss my ass (right now).

Bummer about the Pullman series. The Ruby in the Smoke even sounds like something I'd read (and I rarely do mysteries), but the rest of the series sounds skunky.

By the way, it's all The Night Circus's fault. It put me into a huge reading slump. All I could do was play SIMS2.