I tried the I am Charlotte Simmons. I heard a review of it on NPR and went out and bought it the next day. It wasn't in paperback yet, and it cost me $35, which is more than I spend on anything except fancy clothes or alcohol. I was really excited to read it. I was like, wow, this book has been waiting to be written. It sounded like it was going to really be one of those things, one of those books where you're like, yes. Oh, good book-reading, sitting-in-cozy-chair-with-tea-while-it's-raining-outside, reading-really-slowly-so-it-won't-end, type book. I don't know how else to explain how excited I was that he had written this book. And that I was about to start reading it.
(You can click on the picture to read excerpts from the book in a new window if you want...)
I guess maybe I had built up too high of expectations for the novel.
I had paid a lot for it, and had heard raving reviews. I also respect Wolfe a lot as a writer.
But when it came down to it, I was utterly unimpressed. I felt like he was trying to write about things that I could have identified with much more than he ever could have. I felt like I actually identified with the character a lot more than Wolfe.
You know, he even says it in the introduction, that he doesn't really know what he's talking about. He had to ask his son and daughter when it would be appropriate to use the words "dude" and "totally." Which is, well, dude, totally uncool.
Let's face it. Maybe he's in a college setting. Maybe he's a professor or whatever, and maybe every semester he sees some bright-eyed young missy have her hopes and dreams ripped from her pure little soul every year. Some poor little Bambi thrown into this cold world to learn that college life and success have nothing to do with how intelligent or worldly you are. Wolfe has no idea what it is like to be that girl.
And I'm not even going to say that I know very much about what it's like to be Charlotte Simmons, because I was never very sheltered. And college for me was not at all like stepping out into the great big bad world; it was more like highschool+.
Anyway, I never finished the book. Me and Wes talk about how different we are in this respect. Once he starts a book, he'll suffer through it (Fabric of the Cosmos, case in point). I, on the other hand, feel that life is too short. I gave the book to my mom. She loved the hell out of it.
Admittedly, I did not get to the third chapter. Maybe it was too long for me. Maybe I had built up unrealistic expectations, honestly thinking that this book would be the validation of my frustration with having tried (and failed) to be an academic at one of the best party schools in the country. (I certainly learned a lot more about partying than I did about Dante at LSU.)
Actually, now, it occurs to me that I probably got what I wanted from reading the book before I even opened it up... Maybe the fact that Wolfe wrote the book was all the validation that I needed. I know what the book's about. I lived some of the story in some ways... And the mere fact that someone else noticed that going to a university doesn't seem to have much to do with the quest for knowledge, or even preparation for the real world was what I needed to know about.
After knowing that Wolfe thought it was worth his time and effort to write the book, I guess I didn't feel it was worth mine to read it.
But maybe if I had made it to 100 pages (which I'm pretty sure I didn't), maybe I'd have really cared about poor little Charlotte. Maybe I'll pick it up again. Definately will if you enjoy it, Joel, because I'm wondering if it's a generational thing.
You know, most of the reviewers (not to mention the writer) are our parent's generation. So if you like it, I'll read it.
So I think I'll try the Steinbeck you mentioned. I've never read any of his books. And the quick and funness of the Kinky Freedman sounds appealing too. I'll let you know what I think in a little while. I'm reading a few books right now, so it may take me a little while to get to them.
Most of the books I'm working on are nonfiction, a couple about Kundalini and one about Language, but one that is worth mentioning by name is
Hardcore Zen, by Brad Warner who is sortof hot in a weird way in this picture.
See?But that doesn't mean that guys wouldn't enjoy him too. In fact, a guy loaned me the book. Anyway, Brad has his own website, which I enjoyed, which has links to his blog and a silly advertisement-movie-trailer about his book. (Watch it.)