Why I read this book
I finished this book a while ago so I thought I’d write about it. To be honest, it took a while to write this review because months after finishing I still have this feeling of ‘What the hell did I just read?’ 😄 If you look on Amazon.com you will find readers polarized into two camps, Gardner is a genius or a horrible writer. I found him to be an innovative author with lovely prose, but I know why others found this book unbearable.
A friend of mine (a brilliant writer) recommended it to me years ago, and I finally got around to reading it. That’s probably the best advice I could give to newbie writers. Find another writer you love and ask them for book recommendations.
The basic premise of the story is that an old man, James, living off the land gets stuck living with his once-affluent and now destitute elderly sister, Sally. They get into a fight about the TV because he thinks technology has destroyed everything that is good with America, so he shoots the TV with a gun and ends up chasing her into a bedroom and threatening to kill her if she comes out. Then the rest of the book is spent with friends and family trying to get her to come out. Yep, three-hundred pages of that. Although I guess one could say the TV series, “The Wonder Years,” was just about a boy growing up. But they managed to make 100+ awesome episodes on that premise.
Then there is this side-plot about a man wanting to commit suicide, and he unknowingly gets rescued by drug dealers. How does this fit in with the main story? It’s a book Sally reads while locked up in her bedroom. It takes up about about a quarter of October Light. It’s also missing pages. Yes, the book within a book is a tattered relic she finds while in her self-imposed prison, so both the reader and Sally can only read part of this story. It’s hard to follow the book within a book, and some readers on Amazon just skipped it. It supposedly mirrors the disconnect between Sally and her brother, but it was hard to make that connection. Or maybe I’m completely off and failed to see the point of it 😄
Would I recommend this book to others?
It depends on what you are looking for in a book. This book is not a page-turner, the characters are rather unlikable, and the plot relies too heavily on micro-tension. However, the prose is gorgeous. It’s less poetic and lyrical than McCarthy’s, but is beautiful in its own way. I also enjoyed the insightful bits of philosophy scattered throughout the story. The characters grew on me over time, but by the end of the book the only character I was rooting for was Jame’s daughter.
I like reading avant-garde books because it often inspires new ideas. I wouldn’t say it was a fun read, but that’s not why I read it. It was a good learning experience. There’s a lot of meaning in this book I feel like I missed, so I will probably come back and read it at a later point in time.
Right now I’m reading Annie Proulx’s novel The Shipping News, along with rereading McCarthy’s The Road and Faulkner’s Light in August. I have trouble reading just one book 😄