Monday, November 9, 2009

Reading Attention-Deficit Disorder

I HAVE finished one book in the past week. However, I have started and stopped many more than that. After a serious case of reading ADHD, I've finally (maybe) settled down. During my ADHD period, I picked up and started no fewer than 5 or 6 different books. None of them held my attention long enough to really give them the concentration they deserve. Thus, they were abandoned. A few from the "just couldn't do it -- maybe later" list:

1) Secrets to Happiness by Sarah Dunn: I read her novel The Big Love, but I recall feeling much the same way... As though it didn't really go anywhere, and wherever it did go, it wasn't very far. In this newest novel, Dunn set forth to tell the tale of some -- let's just say it -- overall unlikeable characters. Holly, the main character, is an uptight writer who seems a bit holier-than-thou, yet is sleeping with a 20-year-old. Her best friend, cheating on her husband with reckless abandon, despite their infant son. Her writing partner, a dried-up, has-been who feels he just DESERVES better than the show they're currently writing for. I gave it about 150 pages before giving up. A valiant effort, if you ask me.

For a positive review from someone who actually read Dunn's entire book, see the New York Times book review of Secrets to Happiness.

2) You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas by Augusten Burroughs: I always forget. I don't really like Burroughs or his writing. Running with Scissors (both the novel and the film based on it) was endlessly entertaining, if almost macabre in its subject matter. Everything past that (Dry (2003), Magical Thinking (2003), and Possible Side Effects (2006)) was depressing, dark (but not darkly funny), and virtually unreadable. I think my biggest mistake is sometimes, in the midst of library browsing, mixing up Burroughs with one of my favorite writers, David Sedaris. Sedaris is dark, yes, and sometimes even depressing. But he is always an excellent storyteller, while Burroughs simply makes me want to punch him. Oh, and he's not funny. The audiobook version of You Better Not Cry (unfortunately read by Burroughs himself) got ejected from my CD player after five minutes in. He began by talking about stacking metal folding chairs and his anxiety over "not knowing how to do this properly" as a child. Really? Where are you when I need you, David Sedaris?!?

For a different take on his memoir, read Augusten Burroughs' interview about the book with TIME magazine.

3) The Buffalo Soldier by Chris Bohjalian: I have nothing bad to say about this book. I've loved everything ever written by Bohjalian, and I expect nothing less from this novel. But I just can't get into a novel right at this moment whose inside cover says: "....and it is they who introduce him to the history of the buffalo soldiers -- African-American cavalry troopers whose reputation for integrity, honor, and personal responsibility inspires the child." I keep telling myself it's NOT going to be about soldiers or war, but I can't get past it. Not only that, but (don't tell anyone) I don't really like history. I know. It's terrible. But true. Eventually, though, I will read what I'm sure is an excellent novel.

Part book review, part interview, check out's article on The Buffalo Soldier from its publication year in 2002. Also offers proof positive that this book is NOT about soldiers or war & I'm officially off my rocker if I continue to perpetuate that myth each time I pull the book off by shelves!

4) The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne: I'm about 30-40 pages into this book, and ostensibly abandoned it only to read another book (mystery by Patricia Cornwell!). However, I've found it hard to pick it back up... Like my aversion to history, I also have a slight aversion to novels from the UK. Don't get me wrong -- Tana French, Maeve Binchy, & Helen Fielding are all beloved authors in my mind. But all in all, I don't generally gravitate towards novels set in the UK. That being said, I can't argue that I'll never return to Browne's novel. I'm sure I will at some point in time. For ADHD week? It gets shelved.

Here is an interview with author Hester Browne about how she began writing The Little Lady Agency & its evolution into a series:

5) Feather Crowns by Bobbie Ann Mason: Wow. I'm really starting to notice a pattern in my abandoned reading list. While Mason's novel is not about history, it is one of my other aversions related to history -- the historical novel. It's merits will eventually outweigh its negatives. It's set in the south, it's about a woman giving birth to one of the country's first quintuplets, and it's written by Bobbie Ann Mason. You can't beat a southern female author writing about a southern woman. I will return to it some late night when I have finished all of my library books and can't find a mystery novel on my shelves. I'm sure after completing it, the novel will be one of my favorites. Until then, historical fiction = not reading.

Revered southern author Jill McCorkle reviewed Mason's novel for a New York Times special in 1993. Read her article, "Her Sensational Babies", for a literary review that reads like literature itself.

6) How the Other Half Hamptons by Jasmin Rosemberg: Chick lit a la Carrie Bradshaw but for real women. That's how I interpreted Rosemberg's novel would read. Her biography on the back cover tells readers that "as a New York Post Hamptons columnist, [she] chronicled her own experience as a shareholder in a sixteen-week series, and also covered Hamptons nightlife for the Post and red carpet events for Life & Style Weekly." I assumed her novel would be rich with insider details, while being slightly more relatable to the middle class chick I am. I was wrong; the prices people pay for a shared bed in a 10 bedroom mansion in the Hamptons is still three times my monthly rent. Thus, I found her story highly alien to me. That, coupled with unlikeable characters in uninteresting situations... Well, you get the idea. I may return to it on a summer day when I'm laying in the sun on a beach towel, but until then -- on the shelf.

Judge for yourself by reading the first chapter, published as an excerpt in USA Today.

Soon to come: review of a book I actually finished -- Patricia Cornwell's latest Scarpetta novel, The Scarpetta Factor.

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