I’m on page 167, still trudging my way through LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN, and by god I am going to finish this book. I am. This week. Maybe tomorrow. I’m desperate to get it done as fast as I can so I can stop feeling like my ass is sinking through the quicksand of my couch.
This is not how reading is supposed to feel.
The writing? Gorgeous. Style, brilliance? Man, the writer’s got it. But with the exception of the “Miro, Miro, On The Wall” chapter (which is heartbreakingly excellent), I’m so blinded and distracted by the glare of said gorgeous-style-brilliance that I feel like I’m digging through a pile of diamonds to find the story. I know it’s in here somewhere! Please, I beg you, just tell me the story.
This morning I put down LTGWS pulled Russell Banks’s AFFLICTION off the shelf. I know what you’re thinking: You can’t compare books. True enough. But when I’m adrift — like now — I head to my bookshelves and slide out some old favorites and recall what I loved about them. Check out AFFLICTION’s first paragraph:
“This is the story of my older brother’s strange criminal behavior and his disappearance. No one urged me to reveal these things; no one asked me not to. We who loved him simply no longer speak of Wade, not among ourselves and not with anyone else, either. It is almost as if he never existed, or as if he were a member of some other family or from some other place and we barely knew him and never had occasion to speak of him. So that by telling his story like this, as his brother, I am separating myself from the family and from all those who ever loved him.”
Who could stop reading? That first sentence alone makes me want to turn the pages as fast as I can. This is how reading is supposed to feel. No quicksand here.
I’ve read AFFLICTION twice. The first time through all I could think about was Wade’s aching tooth and the piling up of one bad decision after another, the brutality of his past, his grim present, his ever-dimming and narrowing future. His panic. His panic which became my panic. The second time, I took more time to appreciate the structure, the narrative voice, the style, the order in which Wade’s brother chooses to tell the story, and why. I think that’s what I’m missing with LTGWS. Tell me the story first. Then I can go back on my own, in my own way and on my own time, and appreciate the style, the brilliance. They can be so distracting, all these blinding diamonds. The first time through, I just want the story.