Feb. 18th, 2017

osprey_archer: (books)
I enjoyed Pamela Paul's My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues, but in a much more low-key way than I was expecting. It's a memoir about Paul's reading life, which is a genre that ought to be larger in my opinion, although future practitioners ought to take Anne Fadiman's Ex Libris as their guide rather than My Life with Bob.

The problem with My Life with Bob, honestly, is that there's too much regular memoir here and not nearly enough detail about the books. I want my book memoirs like my food memoirs, rich in sensory detail. I want to feel sun-warmed peach juice dribbling off my skin; I want to catch my breath along with the author (who has become the reader again) as she races toward the ending of the second Hunger Games book, exhausted from giving birth but nonetheless so engrossed in the story that she picks it up again as soon as the baby's sleeping and all is quiet. Paul mentions this experience, but it's not vivid enough for me to feel it with her.

I want this even if I haven't read the book myself. Especially if I haven't read the book myself. I didn't come out of this book filled with the overwhelming urge to read any of the books it mentioned, which I think is really a sign of failure in a book-about-books.

Having said this, I think part of the problem is that the Venn diagram of our literary tastes only have a small area of overlap, and even that overlap is mostly illusory. Both Paul and I loved Anna Karenina, for instance, but Paul identified with Anna, whereas it didn't even occur to me that you could identify with Anna. Levin was clearly where it was at. You read the Anna sections because you have to in order to dive breathlessly into the next bit about Levin and Kitty.


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