Paper Tears

So, I finished ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’ last night. If you’re thinking to yourself that it took me a long time to do so, the reason is threefold: 1) I am, by nature, a slow reader. 2) Due to the highly emotional nature of the book, I found it impossible to read on public transit, so it was kept for bedroom reading only. 3) In the course of the few weeks I took to read this book, I also knit a hat with earflaps, 1/2 a lace scarf and 1/4 of an alpaca shrug, went out to two late-night parties, watched 4 DVDs worth of Gilmore Girls, and have been catsitting for three different kitties.

Now, I enjoyed this book, but there are elements that have left me craving conversation with others who have read it. When I turned the last page at 10pm last night, tears streaming from my eyes in a salty deluge, I just barely restrained myself from calling , , and/or to be like “what the hell?! how could you recommend this so glowingly? I’m CRYING here, people!”

Sure, it was a good sort of crying, the kind that comes of knowing that all good things must come to an end. Not like the Rohinton Mistry, ‘A Fine Balance’ sort of crying that comes of knowing that I am a spoilt capitalist bitch with every opportunity and nearly infinite resources who is doing nothing, nothing, nothing at all to help the millions of impoverished people living in conditions of pain, desperation and want all over the world OMG the caste system sucks.

The best thing I can say about TTW is that it –combined with the positive influence of LibriVox– has rekindled my interest in reading more serious novels. Don’t mistake my meaning here. I love a good dose of chuckles with Bill Bryson, some romantic swoonings with Jude Deveraux, sleuthing with Arthur Conan Doyle and expanding my mind with science fiction from Orson Scott Card. But it’s good to open oneself up to more challenging (read: depressing, awkward, lengthy) works as well, and I’ve been on quite the hiatus since completing my M.A.

I loved the heady mixture of “high culture” and “popular culture” in the novel – extensive quotes from Rilke and citations of opera (love!), mixed with punk rock and drug references (both of which were quite lost on me) – but the general idea of the paradox of modern life rings true. If you have a university education, then you’ve been exposed to the great poets and to opera and other forms of culture that don’t exactly get a lot of air time on radio or the telly. Some of it must call to you. My “high culture” tastes run eerily close to those of Niffenegger’s characters: Rilke, Neruda, Milton, Donne, Byron. Puccini, Wagner, Bartok (I can’t BELIEVE she mentioned Bela Bartok), Albeniz, Mussorgsky, Copland, Bach. But in university I also partook of Baywatch, drinking contests, Sid Meier’s Civilization for the PC, and Beck. I learned to appreciate electronica, trip-hop, drum and bass, lounge and 50s bubblegum pop. I ate (and continue to eat) television for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I became a pop culture fiend with high culture pretentions/secret loves, and I related to the characters of Henry and Clare with a strong immediacy because they were suffering from the same sort of dissociative identity disorder re:culture.

The big question is, where to go from here? I’ve got a collection of recommended books on my desk that have been waiting forlornly for me to get around to them, so who should be first in line?

As for my passion for reading aloud, I’ve now started a LibriVox Wiki page where I’m keeping track of both Solo and Collaborative Projects that I’ve recorded for. If you want to listen to my reading of Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’, click here. Next projects include: ‘The Gerrard Street Mystery’, a Canadian ghost story by Dent; ‘Peter Pan and Wendy’ by Barrie; and ‘Roughing It In the Bush’ by Moodie.

9 thoughts on “Paper Tears

  1. I cried too. But it also left me with the slightly sick feeling that The Life of Pi left me with.


  2. Funny you mention it, I’m about half way through A Fine Balance as we speak. Damn Minstry, for being such an excellent writer that I can’t put it down, despite the SEVERE DEPRESSION AND GUILT it is causing me.

  3. After our chat over Ethiopian, I bought the damn book for myself for my birthday off of Amazon. I havne’t read it yet – but I did read the cat psychology book I bought along with it. 😉

  4. I recommended When We Were Orphans, mostly just because I also have that book and haven’t read it and want to see someone else’s response to it. (Even if it does take a while – I’ve got two and a half shelves of books I haven’t read yet, so it might be quite a while before I get around to it either.) I enjoyed Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, but I suspect they’re sort of wildly different books, so I’m not sure that liking one will have any bearing on my response to the other. (Whereas some authors are similar enough from book to book that generally you know how you’ll feel about the next book.)

    Anyway, I almost recommended the Burroughs’ book instead. I haven’t read that particular one of his, but I have read one and a half of his others. If it’s anything like the others, I’m not sure it’ll count as particularly challenging – his books are fairly easy reads.

  5. Two full days of my cottage holiday this summer were spent reading TTW cover to cover. I read it again a couple weeks ago. I’m glad you read it. I’ve got it on my shelf now and I know it’s going to be one of those books that I read every year or two for the rest of my life. Yes, I’m one of THOSE. I re-read my favorties over and over.

  6. I’m led to understand that All the Pretty Horses is fairly violent. I’m just sayin’.


  7. I’ve got TTW sitting on my desk, on loan from my gal pal I haven’t had time to even start it, so I think I’ll wait a few weeks. I’m too busy to cry 🙂

  8. But in university I also partook of Baywatch, drinking contests, Sid Meier’s Civilization for the PC, and Beck.

    Funny… I thought Sid Meier’s Civilization was high culture.

  9. Zoinks – I can’t even remember what the thing that would be making you cry at the end of TTW (oh, no, wait – now I do – you’re right, bad, but still not as bad as A Fine Balance – was that one ever an uplifting book club).

    I haven’t read any of the ones on your list, but I read Ishigoru’s `Never Let Me Go’, and it was really intriguing – a very interesting premise. It left me wanting to read more of his stuff – if it were me choosing, I’d do that one.


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