Friday, May 25, 2012

Ungripped: Eco's PRAGUE CEMETERY and Groff's ARCADIA

I've set down two books that failed to grab me.

Umberto Eco's latest, The Prague Cemetery, drew me in via the jacket description, though its tale of conspiracy theories made real rang of his earlier Foucault's Pendulum (which I loved). I never had the chance to find out whether this novel followed much of the other's approach, as the endless listing of materials, a drawn-out mise-en-scène (similar to his equally unapproachable The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana), kept me at arm's length. Glancing ahead in the novel, I saw what appeared to be a narrative that would not easily admit me, and so I gave up. Really, I gave it very little chance.

I don't know why I picked up Lauren Groff's new novel, Arcadia; perhaps the praise on the jacket and its placement on the new book shelf at the library. (So many other things—that I own—that I should be reading . . . ) Told via anonymous narration through the perspective of "Bit," a little kid (early in the novel) growing up in a commune, the novel certainly contains lovely writing, even if every scent the child detects is broken down into multiple constituent parts (heck of an olfactory set on that wee one). It's an evocative style, and Groff captures the scene (and "the scene") well but, 60 pages in, that's all I'm getting from the novel, a lovely style. The story isn't gaining traction, and I feel, instead, that much of what I've read could be trimmed away with little loss. Evidently, I'd like to see more story than this novel wants to provide (at least in the early going). I will move on to something else.

I'm still reading, slowly, day-by-day, Jeffrey Cramer's annotated edition of Thoreau's Walden. I'll likely start two things, one of which will be John Hawkes's The Blood Oranges.

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