KingMidget's Ramblings

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A Book Re …. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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?

10 responses to “A Book Re …. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  1. Carrie Rubin January 14, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    Well, you gave it your best. I don’t blame you for stopping. I’m surprised by how few reviews some of these books have, especially since they were signed with big publishers and had so many professional reviews.

    • kingmidget January 14, 2015 at 8:00 pm

      I was too. I Pity the Poor Immigrant is a great example. If you look it up on Amazon, there are a lot of favorable reviews from newspapers, critics, other authors, all sorts of different sources. It’s been out since April. And it only has 21 reviews? How does that happen? Well, actually, I just saw one potential reason — it’s publisher was Hatchette. As much as I didn’t like this book, what a horrible thing, if it the author was hurt by the Amazon-Hatchette war. Over on Goodreads, the book has 118 ratings, and 28 text reviews.

  2. sknicholls January 14, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    You can’t trust that Kevin Brennan guy. I hear he carries a Land of the Giants lunchbox as a purse. I totally agree with Carrie. You gave this a tremendous effort and stuck with it far longer, I think, than I could have. I’ve often looked up books signed by big publishers to see few or poor reader reviews with tons of fantastic editorial reviews. Makes me think the publishers have an “IN” with the reviewers. Sometimes I read books, like “Gone Girl”, and can’t understand for the life of me what all the hype is about. Readers and critics alike thought it grand…well, many did…even the movie. It read like tabloid fiction to me. That’s just a subjective opinion though. I certainly don’t want to see the movie.

    • kingmidget January 14, 2015 at 8:38 pm

      I think it all comes down to beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What baffles me is how just about every book on the list seemed to be just a complete mess to me, which leads me to the conclusion that critics look for something other than what readers are looking for. So, if that’s the case, what purpose are the critics actually serving?

      I do have to admit that I liked Gone Girl — not as great literature, but as a story that just sucked me in and kept me awake for seven hours while sitting in an airport and then on a flight home from Chicago. On a day I desperately needed some sleep. Reading always puts me to sleep. That book did not. But I do agree … it read like tabloid fiction, but I think that was kind of the point. I even saw the movie and thought they did a very good job of adapting the story to the screen.

    • kingmidget January 14, 2015 at 8:46 pm

      And yeah, about that Brennan guy … I need to keep my distance. 😉

  3. Kevin Brennan January 14, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    Hey, now. I’m not taking responsibility for your hapless adventure in “Best Of” Land! You still have a little something called “free will,” man.

    As for my Land of the Giants lunchbox, it’s very practical. It even has a Thermos, and it’s big enough to hold all my G.I. Joe accessories.

  4. Deliberately Delicious January 15, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    Are you taking recommendations? The book that has been at the top of my favourites list for a year now is “The Garden of Evening Mists” by Tan Twan Eng. it is so beautiful.

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