The problem with reading a book that everyone says is great is it colors your natural inclination to decide for yourself if you like the book or not. Writers start out being told what books they should read. The Classics. So you wade through a lot of books early on thinking I should read this I should read this I should read this, even though many times you are bored out of your skull. But that brings up that old saw that some books require the reader to do the heavy lifting for the payoff. Ulysses comes to mind as a example of a book I had to labor through and by the end I was glad I did it.
But I have to confess I have fallen off the Freedom train. There may be no place in heaven for men who read boring books as Saul Bellow said, but there also is no place in heaven for men or women who read books endorsed by everyone on the planet including the big Kahuna–you know her name–Oprah. But I am a seasoned reader who did read old dusty books by DWM (dead white males) for years that required effort to some degree and did not give a lot of payoff. But The Freedom train has proved particularly daunting and I am having trouble convincing myself this will better my literary palate in the long run.
It is Patty Berglunds autobiography that has thrown me under the bus. I just don’t care about this woman and her adventures in basketball. I keep sitting down to read it and I just fall off the back of the Freedom train every time. I will keep reading for prose alone. Plot does not have to draw me in, but I see none of the flourish of The Corrections or even of Franzen’s essays, so… I just stop reading. Now I did stop reading The Corrections also and then I picked it back up. But Alfred and Enid seem like Die Hard II compared to the autobiography of Patty Berglund.
But the real problem is that I am reading a book people have called the book of the century. It seems almost blasphemous to say this book isn’t holding me. There must be something here I am missing. I must just be too dumb to see it. Cretin. Obviously the rest of the world including Oprah have seen something incredible, lasting, eminently brilliant that the Cretin is missing. So I will get back on the Freedom train and I will continue to read Patty Berglund’s autobiography. I just hope we come to a mountain, a curve, a town…something. I mean I know the book is great. Everyone says so.
William Hazelgrove’s forthcoming novel is Rocket Man due out in the fall