Read the Pulitzer Prize winning Middlesex? Me neither.
Wandering through my seventh decade, I treasure time. I used to read the classics no matter how grueling and gut-wrenching, but now? Meh. Distinctions can be deceiving. Some of the smartest people I met over the years never earned a high-school diploma. Lots more swore off college. I’ve learned not to judge a book by its accolades.
So Pulitzer Prize and all, I’m pulling out the ladder, stepping up, and slipping Middlesex onto that top shelf I can’t reach, setting it alongside Hillbilly Elegy and Moby Dick. (Yes, it’s above me. Who cares?) I couldn’t take the Greek history or the multitudinously lined paragraphs as I’m a fan of dialogue and white space.
My apologies to my book club. I really did try. This is only the third time they selected a book I couldn’t muddle through. The other two were Hillbilly Elegy, and (um, my sixty-two-year-old memory fails me) another one about a pig. Oh wait, there was a fourth. Some Steve Martin blunder. (Sorry, Steve. I love you otherwise.)
So now I add Middlesex to a perfectly wonderful list. These are all great books that have appealed to hundreds, thousands, of people. They just aren’t reading-in-the-backyard-with-a-cup-of-coffee worthy to me. Their skip factor was too high.
You’ll find my skip factor is what sets my reviews apart from others. I’m coming out of the bookstore closet and admitting I skip. (Gasp.) And, really, who cares if we skip a line or paragraph or book or two?
In alphabetical order, here are the books I almost read. (To see books I recommend, browse my review page.) My apologies to the authors:
Hillbilly Elegy – Skip rate 40%. I read more than half of this book. I believe the fall of the middle class is unavoidable, and I was anxious to read this story about the working-class Vance family. However, I could not get through it. Sorry to the author for what I am about to say. I felt this was a story of many Americans and the only reason this succeeded was because of the author’s ivy-league resume. He rambled on, and I kept asking myself why his thoughts were so important. (Confession: I earned straight A’s in my poor, menial, private-school college economic classes years ago but HATED the subject.) DNF (did not finish).
Idaho– Skip rate 60%. I’ll apologize up front for what I am about to say. This book was so dark and disturbing it made me want to drive the outskirts of this state when I was traveling out west last year, simply because of the connotations I now suffer from the word Idaho. I read about 20% before googling this novel and finding it was an award-winner. (I rest my case.) So I read another 15-20%, trying hard to look past its darkness. The writing is magnificent but the material too terriblr for me. DNF.
Middlesex – Skip rate 90%. As stated above, I just couldn’t wade through the long paragraphs and Greek history. I did want to read the story. Where it began, I do not know. For those of you who have more patience than me, carry on the read. I do think the author is a gifted writer and some will like. DNF.
Moby Dick – Skip rate ??. Honestly, I do not remember how much I read. This was years ago and I tried to read this monstrosity of a book several times. Never could. Not sure why. I went back and read the first few lines. Maybe because of the full-of-myself male voice? (The skies rumble as the Mel-admiring gods groan.) No desire to try again. DNF.
CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, Dream Wide Awake and Project Dream, two crime thrillers with sixth-sense components, Friends Who Move Couches and Don’t Mind Me, I Came with the House, women’s fiction. Zahner’s Dream Series novels were inspired by Zahner’s own experiences. Listen to her interview about her 9/11 a premonition here. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast here. Listen to her Online Book Circle podcast here.
Read more about Zahner in Voyage Raleigh at https://voyageraleigh.com/interview/rising-stars-meet-cyndie-cj-zahner-of-wendell-falls-area.