Friday, March 14, 2008

Gene Wolfe

So, I just finished one of Gene Wolfe's newer books. If you're not familiar with him, he wrote the Book of the New Sun, Shadow of the Torturer, etc. He's kinda famous for being deep and meaningful, and whatever else. I tried to read Shadow of the Torturer a long time ago, and I didn't really like it. Supposedly there was some kind of commentary on human existence and the dangers of autocratic rule, I think someone mention Plato's Republic when discussing it. I just thought it was difficult to get through and pretty boring.

Now, its more than ten years later, and I can honestly say that I just don't like Gene Wolfe. He jumps around, his writing is poor, and he confuses the reader. Not in a "let the reader figure it out" kind of way, more of a "what the hell just happened?" kinda way. Like watching a BBC drama on BBC America, where they've edited out ten minutes of show to put in commercials, and every time it comes back from a commercial you always have this feeling something is missing.

So, I finished that one, didn't like it. Now I'm reading Catcher in the Rye. Don't really like it, either. I never read it in high school, and I think that's a good thing. It's almost puerile. I suppose maybe if I was fifteen and reading it I would identify more with Mr. Caulfield. But I'm 33, and I just find Holden annoying, stuck up, and frankly someone with very serious issues. I do admit that Salinger has a flair for words, and writes very well (although, I would have to argue, not as good as lesser known "pulp" authors like Neil Gaiman or Max Brooks), but I just think his approach to the subject is flawed. Maybe that was his intent, but I don't understand why the book has lasted as long as it has, it seems dated. To bring up another cinema analogy, its like someone saying that Full Metal Jacket is a film that one needs to watch in order to understand the experience of soldiers in Iraq.

Maybe that wasn't the best analogy... Saving Private Ryan?

Nonetheless, there is something intensely ironic about a 33 year old sitting down with a cigarette and a cup of coffee and reading Catcher in the Rye.

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