I can’t take it anymore. Last night, I closed I Pity the Poor Immigrant by Zachary Lazar after only reading about 40-50 pages. Here’s what the Amazon blurb says:
The stunning new novel by the author of Sway is another “brilliant portrayal of life as a legend” (Margot Livesey).
In 1972, the American gangster Meyer Lansky petitions the Israeli government for citizenship. His request is denied, and he is returned to the U.S. to stand trial. He leaves behind a mistress in Tel Aviv, a Holocaust survivor named Gila Konig.
In 2009, American journalist Hannah Groff travels to Israel to investigate the killing of an Israeli writer. She soon finds herself inside a web of violence that takes in the American and Israeli Mafias, the Biblical figure of King David, and the modern state of Israel. As she connects the dots between the murdered writer, Lansky, Gila, and her own father, Hannah becomes increasingly obsessed with the dark side of her heritage. Part crime story, part spiritual quest, I Pity the Poor Immigrant is also a novelistic consideration of Jewish identity.
The book has 21 reviews and an average rating of 3.1 on Amazon. This one star review pretty much describes why I didn’t go any further:
The story line was just disjointed and difficult to follow. At times it was a challenge to figure out which person was relating the events. Personally, I could not connect with this book and would not recommend it…Interesting that the professional reviewers praised the story, writing and style, but so many of the real readers had difficulty with the book.
And with that I’m done with this effort. I am just amazed at how these books seem so random, so jumbled, and confused. As I have said in other reviews, I am all for coming up with different ways to tell stories. It is what I’m doing with my works in progress and is one of the reasons why I am struggling with completing those works. It’s hard work. But, dammit, changing the way you tell the story halfway through can be disruptive and jarring to the reader. Coming up with a different way to tell a story that is confusing and a mess doesn’t make it a good story, it just makes it difficult to read. I’d love to know what it is the New York Times critics saw in these books. I’m just completely missing it.
The thing is that I’ve enjoyed doing these reviews. I have never really done long or formal reviews of books, so this has been an experiment for creating a way to review books. I think this works.
Of course, I’m not done reading. There are a few books on that list that I know I want to give a try at some point, but I’m done with the “read every book on the list” effort. Blech! For the moment, however, I’m moving to that stack of books that perpetually resides in my bedroom. I started Some Luck by Jane Smiley last night. My former boss gave it to me as a holiday gift last month. Kevin Brennan very strongly recommends Robert Stone. I’m gonna add him to my book stack. I don’t know why. It was Mr. Brennan who mentioned the stupid New York Times book list and unintentionally set me on the book reading path I’ve been on for the last month and a half. I’m a fool, aren’t I?