Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Sunday Salon - A Hedgehog Bites the Dust

I love a hedgehog as much as anyone--possibly more than most--but sadly that isn't the case with Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

First, I have to say, I really like intellectual books. I like books with clever intertextual references that blend art and philosophy and lots of cool, smart stuff. Whenever I think of "smart" books I think of Siri Hustvedt and Paul Auster. Try Hustvedt's What I Loved on for some wicked psychological, artistic, brain churning goodness. There are also smart gimmicky books like Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics which flex an intellectual muscle and manage to be fun or especially touching and affecting at the same time. I expected The Elegance of the Hedgehog to be something similar, but I didn't get far in enough to know before I wanted to shoot myself up with a lethal air bubble. Page 25 people. I couldn't go past page 25.

The problem I had with Barbery's book was simply some dislikable damn characters. They liked themselves A LOT. And I realize, after giving up at page 25, there was plenty of room for improvement, but given that I've been on something of a quick reading streak lately, I desperately did not want to beslump myself. I refuse to berate myself mentally for giving up on books anymore, so I tossed this one back into the library return and picked up my new holds.

Is The Elegance of the Hedgehog a bad book? I have no freakin' clue. I know I didn't read enough of it to pass judgment, but I do know that it's not the book for me right now.

Which book is for me right now?? Some YA, please! The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan, arrived at the 'brary for me, and I'm about to get offline and sink into the world of the Unconsecrated. In addition to laying books aside when they aren't tickling my reading toesies, another tactic for staying in a buoyant reading mood is switching genres often. I think this one might just keep me afloat.

19 comments:

  1. I didn't like this one that much, so I don't think you're missing out on anything!

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  2. I didn't hate this book, but definitely didn't like it enough to seek out anything else by this author. I agree, lots of self-satisfaction amongst the characters.

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  3. I will probably give this one a try at some point. Good for you for moving on as soon as you realized this one was not working for you! Hopefully your next book was better.

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  4. I liked this book, but only after the first 100 pages were over! I had it for review, so I had to persevere. I can totally understand you giving up, because I might have done the same if I'd just picked it up more for fun.

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  5. I haven't read this book, but I've heard that it's very slow at the beginning.

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  6. That stinks about the book, I hate it when you think you are going to like a book and it is disappointing. I say there are way too many books to read and as we are mere mortals we must save reading time for the good stuff!

    word verification: "dement"
    hahahahahahahahaha

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  7. Eva, I went back and re-read your thoughts as I was decided to ditch it, actually. Loved your review...think I'd probably agree if I finished.

    Jenny, I hear ya. I was reading the NYTimes review of the novel this weekend, and the first question posed by the reviewer is basically, "Are Americans too stupid to enjoy this?" What a crock.

    Wendy, thank you! No more self-torture in the name of reading books I think I should read. I may come back to it at some point, but for now there are greener bookish pastures to be frolicked through.

    Meghan, that's really good to know. If I decide to give it another go I'll make sure my patience is in top form to get through the first 100. Right now my attention span could tooootally not handle it.

    Kathy, I can confirm that. lol

    Amen, Amanda!!! I need a t-shirt that says, "I read without guilt." lol

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  8. I did finish this one, but there were things I liked (the ending, and not just because it was over) and things I hated (the philosophy, man did I ever hate the philosophy).

    I'm a firm believer in giving up on books...which might explain all the bookmarks poking out of books on my shelves.

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  9. Amen, Jill! My bookshelves look like a fuzzy throw rug from all the leftover bookmarks hanging out.

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  10. I was really disappointed in the book, too. I don't know why I finished it--you're doing the right thing. I'm learning that life's too short for books you don't enjoy.

    (And I'm trying to remember the last good YA book I read. I've been in a mystery stage.)

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  11. I have this one, so I am going to start it one of these days just to see if I can stand it!

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  12. I actually bought this sometime last year (or maybe the year before?) as one of those 'buy one get one half off' sales, but I've yet to be in the mood or be interested enough to read it. I think it's because I have a feeling I'll feel about it much the way you do, so why bother even wasting my time? But then, it's not doing any good sitting on my shelf, either.

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  13. I'm pretty sure I have this one on my TBR. I'm kind of curious to read to page 25...if I can make it that far based on your review!

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  14. Can I get one of those t-shirts?! I need to remind myself that it's ok to give up on a book. I've gotten better, but I'm still not great at it. And guilt reading is so horrible.

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  15. You made me laugh, Andi. I felt the same way in regards to the characters' snobbish introspection. I mean, here you are fussing about the self-obsessed world around you, and yet, you can't get over yourself! (How French.) I did love the philosophy, though, and the simple way Barbery showed that true beauty is found in a fleeting moment of motion. (Good advice for a mother of a 3-year-old.) I'm going to give Gourmet Rhapsody a shot, but mostly because I'm a foodie.

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  16. I love your post, even if this was not the book for you--you explain why so well! I have it to read and will see what I think, but not sure when I will pick it up. Timing as you know, is everything. Hope your next book is better!

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  17. Oh, no. I bought this purely on the recommendation of a "regular" at the store sometime last year. Now I wonder if I'll ever get to it. Not real big on philosophy... Thanks for the honest assessment, Andi.

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  18. I tried to read this, too, and I couldn't get into it at all...

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  19. I didn't mind this one... It wasn't my favourite but I pushed through to the end. Maybe because I was at the hairdresser and that was what was in my bag. Perhaps it was best that you didn't get to the ending, perhaps the most self-indulgent part of the book! I also read this about 6 months after I had read 'What I Loved' and I agree with you, intellectually they are worlds apart. I felt this book was more of a name dropper than an actual exploration of art, literature and philosophy.

    Elise
    http://onceohmarvellousonce.blogspot.com/

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