Monday, October 3, 2011

World Party: An Uninspired Conclusion...

Well folks, September has come and gone, which means that the 2010-2011 World Reading Challenge has officially come to a close. I am proud to say I kept up with this challenge all year! Except At the end. Right at the last month.

I sorta failed.

September's month was India, and I chose to read Salman Rushdie's well-known Midnight's Children. Originally published in 1980, it won the Booker Prize in 1981, the Booker of Bookers Prize in 1993 (a special award celebrating 25 years of the Booker Prize), and the Best of the Booker in 2008, celebrating the Booker's 40th. I'd never read Rushdie and I had nothing else in mind for India, so why not go with something so prestigious? (Plus, it was available as an eBook through the Brooklyn PL, once again saving me a physical trip to the library.)

Well...this is not a quick read. The story focuses on Saleem Sinai, born at midnight on August 15, 1947, his birth coinciding with the birth of a new, independent India. Rushdie's novel is divided into three "books," and Saleem is the narrator of the story. The first book serves as an introduction to Saleem's own life—stories of his grandparents and parents, of a prophecy made about him before his birth. Then narrator Saleem slowly introduces his own birth and childhood, interactions with family and peers, with the spectacle of India's independence happening all the while in the background. Most notable about Saleem is his "special power" that allows him to enter the mind of all the other thousand "midnight's children."

I know that Midnight's Children is notable for its unique use of language, an Indian perspective on the English language. Likewise, it contains elements of magical realism and is often compared to One Hundred Years of Solitude. So language, structure, and flow may or may not be to blame here when I let you know that I DID NOT FINISH either of these books.

It is extremely rare that I start and book and put it down without finishing it. I can only think of one other book I've done that with in the past decade, and that, coincidentally (or not?), is Marquez's classic, which I started and gave up on about two years ago. But this is what happened with Midnight's Children: I was about 250 pages in with over 300 left to go, my eBook check-out expired today, and I just was not into the story enough to dedicate another week or more to this book. The structure of the story takes time; the language has a specific style and pace, one which takes focus. I've got a busy schedule and list of exciting things I want to read, and frankly, I decided this wasn't worth my time struggling. Maybe I'll come back to it someday, but for now...sorry, India. I let you down in this challenge.


I am very pleased I chose to follow this challenge over the past year. It's actually something I have told many people about and have promoted as a good way to broaden your reading horizons. For the most part, I am happy with my reading choices. I chose some because I felt like I should read them and some because they were easily accessible. Persepolis and The Reluctant Fundamentalist were my favorites; Three Cups of Tea was inspiring at the time but has had interesting developments since I read it; and some (read: Wolf Hall) were just too smart for me. I'd like to do a similar challenge again someday, but for now I'm going to take a bit of a break from a reading schedule!

The World Reading Challenge Year-In-Review:


softdrink said...

I've never managed to finish a Marquez or a Rushdie book...but I didn't make it very far, either. Rushdie's sentences are too dang long. I don't know what my problem with Marquez is, though. I just sputter out after a few chapters.

Kari said...

Oh man, I am glad i'm not the only one. TRUTH about the sentences!

steph_h said...

Oh, I'm sorry to hear you didn't enjoy this! I haven't read it either, BUT I did read The Satanic Verses last year and I LOVED it, so I'm eager to read more Rushdie and have heard this is his best. Tony is reading it right now and enjoying it a lot.

I'm also a huge fan of Marquez, so the fact that you compared to two here makes me think I will like this quite a lot. I do think you're right that they have similar styles/aesthetics so if you don't care for one, you probably won't care for the other one either.

Salvatore said...

If it helps any, I didn't like this book either.