Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

I may have mentioned this before somewhere along the line, but I'm too lazy to go back and check - I'm reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet at the moment.  I'm hoping to finish it tonight, in fact.  It's  one of those weird books that seems to take a really, really long time to read. Have you ever eaten a salad which doesn't seem to get any smaller no matter how many bites you take?  It's like that but with pages instead of spinach. This isn't because the book isn't interesting or that it's as long as a David Foster Wallace book*, but because I have very little time to read except right before bed, and lately I keep falling asleep before I get very far.  Sometimes, I'm that special kind of tired which results in not being able to comprehend or remember anything I read, and yet I stubbornly persevere for awhile.  I'm just like that.  So the next day I drag my tired ass to bed and repeat the same procedure.  Over and over again.  Somehow, haltingly, I have almost reached the end of this book, and I have not been disappointed.  I stumbled upon Mitchell's books last year (I'm not sure how I missed him for so long, he seems to have been nominated for nearly every prize available to man.  Or at least a man who writes.), and I have been consistently wowed by each book.  This one is no exception.

Here's a review by NPR from last year.  See, I'm behind the times on this.  But whatever.  Good literature doesn't expire.

The most impressive thing about Mitchell is the breadth of his subject matter.  He's not one of those guys who says, Hey, since my first book was a success, I think I'll write 8 more almost exactly like it.  Nope.   From book to book, the characters, settings, voices, & tone all wildly fluctuate.  Even within a book, he maintains complete mastery of the story while moving from century to century, or character to character, and never missing a beat.  His dialogue is  unbelievable.  Take my word for it - you can't go wrong with a book written by David Mitchell, and this book in particular is worth a read.

*What's up with this David Foster Wallace thing?  I have tried so hard to appreciate him.  I regularly see him referred to in literary blogs and the like, and even in type you can sense the awe.  I tried Infinite Jest.  I don't hate it, but I honestly don't see what all the fuss is about.  And damn, dude.  Do the books have to be so big?  Those things are heavy.


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