There is more than one reason for not finishing a book. Sometimes it’s a case of ‘It’s Not You, It’s Me‘. Other times it’s the right book at the wrong time. And then, there are the cases when neither of these apply and it is more basic: life is too short for me to keep reading this book that is working my last nerve. It happens and becomes a dreaded DNF. Here are my two most recent examples, both of which hit in August, which was a choppy reading month.
The Story of H: A Novel by Marina Perezagua
Published by Ecco
Publication date: August 14, 2018
Jim is a 30-year-old American serviceman, who survived being a Japanese POW, stays in Japan as part of the peacetime forces. At the base where he is assigned he is given a Japanese orphaned infant that he fosters for 5 years before she is given to an American family. A 13-year-old Japanese girl survives Hiroshima and is also fostered by Americans. As a young adult she meets Jim. They embark on an affair and a search for Yoro, the child Jim can’t forget.
Sound like a lot to process? It is and in The Story of H it never gels. H is the unnamed narrator and not only is she a survivor of an atomic bomb she is intersex- which really adds nothing to the story except a lot of tortured explanation on her part. I gave up on the novel halfway through because despite the premise of the search for a lost daughter, there was little to no movement towards finding her. Instead, the novel reads as a somber cataloging of the atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese (Jim was on the notorious Hell Ship and later worked on the Burma-Thailand railway) and on them (the horror of two atomic bombs). H writes of her own life and the people she encounters with such detachment it feels clinical. This, plus the fact that the Yoro plot is completely buried in often gruesome details meant I couldn’t stick with the novel.
Inappropriation: A Novel by Lexi Freiman
Published by Ecco
Publication date: July 24, 2018
Inappropriation falls into a number of categories for me: choosing a book based only on the blurb, DNF, and I may be too old to get it. On the surface the story of Ziggy, a 15-year-old attending an elite all-girls school in Australia, sounds like my kind of thing—angsty, confused, coming-of-age. Except the novel is so completely of our times that I didn’t understand what was happening, right up until I gave up. New to her school, Ziggy makes friends with two girls who seem to be hardcore feminists and enjoy throwing around all the latest language attached to the label. At the same time their focus on their looks and boys doesn’t jibe. In an effort to fit in with them Ziggy decides she is a “closeted autoerotic gender-neutral secular Jew”. What?
I get that author Lexi Friedman is satirizing the current zeitgeist in identity politics, but at some point, the tidal wave of terminology, even used mockingly, drowned me. I could not follow the book—it literally made no sense to me. Even if you are on the cutting edge of gender fluidity, non-heteronormative sexuality, and cultural appropriation I’m pretty sure Inappropriation will wear you out.
How about you? I know we don’t want to dwell on the negative, but have you read anything recently that you simply could not finish?