I've written before (and before that) about how much I look forward to the annual announcement of the Booker Prize long and short lists, how I read my way through most of the titles selected. If only it were possible to sign up for a special book club that would send me all of the selections in one package, oh, bliss!
That's not to say the Booker is a fool-proof source of books for me.
There have been some duds.
Like The Finkler Question, the 2010 prize winner, which I tried and kept around and finally freecycled, unwilling to even give it shelf-space, let alone bother my eyes with its presence in my house.
And like Bring Up the Bodies, this year's winner by Hilary Mantel, her second Booker, in fact. I plowed through Wolf Hall a year or so ago, carried by my love of Tudor history, in the throes as I was of a recent Elizabethan fervor. But it required plowing. I wanted to LOVE it, I truly did, but making myself finish it was a chore.
With Bring Up the Bodies, I tried, got almost all the way done and then abandoned it, so sad after so many hours of reading.
But really, life is too short to MAKE yoursel read something if you're not really enjoying it.
I struggled for a bit with the idea that I'd set the book aside -- was I missing something? was I just not smart enough to get it? -- and then let it go. The author's job is to hook me. If she doesn't, ain't my fault.
But I wasn't quite ready to give up, so I checked out an earlier Mantel title, A Place of Greater Safety, thinking perhaps my obsessive interest in the French Revolution would buoy me through the pages.
And again, abandoned.
She's all the rage, I get that. But I don't get her writing -- I find it so heavy, somehow, something that I just have to slog through, without enjoying it so much. There were parts of Wolf Hall that I loved, but overall I have to say, just not my cup of tea.
So it was with relief that I attended a Hannukah get-together Sunday night at which a book exchange was proposed. I brought along Steve Martin's Born Standing (which I LOVED and wanted to pass on to someone else would enjoy it as much) and the two offending Mantel titles. I'm delighted they're out of my house, but still puzzled, really, about what all the fuss is about.
But at least I don't have to look at them anymore, stacked neatly by the side of my bed, reproaching me somehow, just as I reproach them for being so ponderous and unreadable.
Maybe I'm a philistine, but whatever: my load is lighter now, since I gave Hilary Mantel the old heave-ho, sent her on to greener pastures, to where someone will appreciate her so much more than me.