Friday, January 14, 2011

I can't believe I was the only one who was bored.

You may remember me mentioning last week how I was stuck reading an obnoxiously long book for my Idlewild book club. Well, I finally finished said book and last night was our meeting.

Let me give you a quick rundown of this book. The World As I Found It by Bruce Duffy is a hefty work of fiction from the NYRB Classics catalog. Duffy chronicles the lives of three well-known philosophers of early twentieth century Europe—Ludwig Wittgenstein, Bertrand Russell, and G. E. Moore. These three men were colleagues yet highly competitive with each other, sometimes influencing each other and at other times tearing each other apart. But here's the thing—these people really existed but this book is fictional. And not even really fiction based completely on truth; he just made stuff up (and fully admits it). A biography of Wittgenstein wasn't released until after Duffy wrote this.

I was bored out of my mind for 80% of this book, and with a book that is 558 pages long, 80% is a lot of pages. Wittgenstein was a tortured, seemingly miserable guy who struggled to find the greatest, highest truth. Well, like I said, philosophy bores me to death. The sections that focuses on Moore and Russell were more interesting to me because they were the ones who actually lived and did things, rather than just think about them. Especially Russell, whose storyline mostly focused on how many women he could sleep with, even up to his senior years. During our discussion, I was aghast to discover that I was the only one who was incredibly bored by this book. I got to wondering if interest in this book was directly related to the reader's general outlook on life. I'd say from ages 13–17, I was very philosophical and analytical, but my modus operandi now is to just live rather than think about it so much. It's why I don't care for philosophical study.

Beyond the philosophy angle, as I listened to our book club discussion, I felt incredibly puzzled as to what I missed in this book. The sections that stuck with others were boring for me, and vice versa. I'm sure it's just a question of reading taste, but I felt like such a simpleton because I couldn't explain my aversion to the book beyond, "I was bored; I just didn't care."

I loved the concept of this book—a fictionalized account of a real person's life. And the ending was fabulous, specifically the last twenty pages and the afterward by the author (a reflection on the book several years after writing it). Duffy ties up the end with a satisfying, "Ah, it all had a purpose," though I question if all of the previous 500 pages were necessary to make his point. But everyone else seemed to like it a lot, so maybe I'm just the weird one with poor taste.

Most importantly, I finished this book and I am finally FREEEEEE to read something else!

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