The good book curse

It happens to everyone. You read one book, that’s so exciting, so well written that it ends up spoiling every other book you lay a finger on.

It happens to every avid reader. You’re plugging along, happily reading your books, when you come across one book that takes the wind out of you. Its the kind of book that grips you by the heart and pulls you into the story head-first. You’re not just reading about the characters, you’re living with them, experiencing their joys and crying their tears.

I will be the first to admit that I am overly-critical of most fiction. Its just frustrating when you’re reading a book and you know the author has the potential to make the work more entertaining that what it is. Its frustrating when you know that with just a little bit more editing, and little bit more focus, this book could be extraordinary.

I’m not a writer,  I’ve tried and failed. I know writing isn’t easy, crafting a new world and creating lives that strangers should care about isn’t easy. Most books that I don’t enjoy are usually that author’s first novel.

That being said, I returned the Friday Night Knitting Club back to the library today. Publisher’s Weekly had given this book a decent review, and so far, their reviews have been pretty on target. There wasn’t any real story or character development. The entire book just felt passive to me. It felt as if these characters were just being paraded around as New York caricatures.  The book was Kate Jacob’s first novel, and again, it just didn’t meet its potential. I think the writing was jumpy, w/o good transitions. There were many sentences and explainations that could have been left out, that did not benefit the story in any way.

I want to read The Knitting Circle,  which sounds like the story that The Friday Night Knitting Club tried to be, but wasn’t.

*** Publisher’s Weekly reviews***

From Publishers Weekly (The Knitting Circle)
While mourning the death of her daughter, Hood (An Ornithologist’s Guide to Life) learned to knit. In her comeback novel, Mary Baxter, living in Hood’s own Providence, R.I., loses her five-year-old daughter to meningitis. Mary and her husband, Dylan, struggle to preserve their marriage, but the memories are too painful, and the healing too difficult. Mary can’t focus on her job as a writer for a local newspaper, and she bitterly resents her emotionally and geographically distant mother, who relocated to Mexico years earlier. Still, it’s at her mother’s urging that Mary joins a knitting circle and discovers that knitting soothes without distracting. The structure of the story quickly becomes obvious: each knitter has a tragedy that she’ll reveal to Mary, and if there’s pleasure to be had in reading a novel about grief, it’s in guessing what each woman’s misfortune is and in what order it will be exposed. The strength of the writing is in the painfully realistic portrayal of the stages of mourning, and though there’s a lot of knitting, both actual and metaphorical, the terminology’s simple enough for nonknitters to follow and doesn’t distract from the quick pace of the narrative. (Jan.)

From Publishers Weekly (The Friday Night Knitting Club)
Between running her Manhattan yarn shop, Walker & Daughter, and raising her 12-year-old biracial daughter, Dakota, Georgia Walker has plenty on her plate in Jacobs’s debut novel. But when Dakota’s father reappears and a former friend contacts Georgia, Georgia’s orderly existence begins to unravel. Her support system is her staff and the knitting club that meets at her store every Friday night, though each person has dramas of her own brewing. Jacobs surveys the knitters’ histories, and the novel’s pace crawls as the novel lurches between past and present, the latter largely occupied by munching on baked goods, sipping coffee and watching the knitters size each other up. Club members’ troubles don’t intersect so much as build on common themes of domestic woes and betrayal. It takes a while, but when Jacobs, who worked at Redbook and Working Woman, hits her storytelling stride, poignant twists propel the plot and help the pacing find a pleasant rhythm. (Jan.)

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4 responses to “The good book curse

  1. I see nothing wrong with being over-critical as a reader. The problem is most people aren’t discerning enough. I love a book that sets me back on my heels–as a reader and a writer–that surprises and astonishes with its originality or virtuosity. It happened the first time I read Cormac McCarthy and as I was making my way through Don Delillo’s UNDERWORLD, amazed at how GOOD they were…

  2. I hear lots of good things about Cormac McCarthy. My best friend loved All the Pretty Horses, and I enjoyed the movie adaptation of No Country for Old Men. I’ll have to put one of his books on my to-read list.

  3. I started off with McCarthy’s BLOOD MERIDIAN, suggested to me by sci fi great William Gibson. Thanks, Bill, I owe ya!

  4. You met William Gibson? I am such a big fan of his. I read Neuromancer in 10th grade when I was going through a major Phillip K Dick / Cyberpunk phase.

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