About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Abort, Retry, Fail

OK, so number 27 was not Atmospheric Disturbances, by Rivka Galchen.

I tried; really, I did. But I only managed to get about 60 pages into the book before concluding I Just Didn't Get It, and this wasn't the book for me.

It's attempted reads like this that make me feel, well, not stupid, exactly, but (gasp) Ordinary. Mainstream. Lowbrow. The novel was well-reviewed (see The New Yorker and The New York Times for examples), and the premise sounded interesting enough; it's the story of Leo Liebenstein, a psychiatrist whose wife is (seemingly) replaced by another woman who looks, speaks, and behaves exactly like her. However, it quickly becomes clear that the "impostress" is nothing of the sort; rather, Leo is going mad.

Sounds fascinating, eh? Well, that's what I thought ... but for all the accolades heaped upon Galchen and her technique, I just couldn't get into this one. Perhaps my biggest problem was that it delved too quickly into Leo's digressions and delusions, before I was able to get a handle on anything concrete in terms of plot or character. Unreliable narrators or authors who play with language are fine by me, but not just for their own sake; I'm a selfish reader, and I want some sort of payoff, whether that's a good story or compelling characters or ideas to ponder once I've closed the back cover. (I feel the same way about special effects in movies, in case you were wondering ... which is one of the places where I part ways with Mrhazel and some other dear friends.) So I got far enough in Atmospheric Disturbances to appreciate some snippets of interesting description, but other than that, it felt like I was either back in my psych major days, trying to rein in the delusions of someone with severe schizophrenia or like I'd parachuted into the wrong corner of a hard-core IT geeks' Christmas party and hadn't the foggiest idea what language was being spoken.

Ah well, such is life. As Popeye once said, "I yam what I yam." Littlehazel and I did make a cold, back-breaking trek to the library last night (it was supposed to be just for her, as I already had 3 of my own on the shelf -- but how often am I that disciplined?), so I'm quite well-stocked for a while.

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