Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Three Reasons I Quit Reading

The past week when I've gone into the bedroom, my husband is propped up against the headboard, book in hand, glasses perched on his nose...eyes shut tight. I know what he's reading....because I was reading the same book a week before. Karl Marx by Julius Smulkstys. After two nights of doing just as my husband and falling asleep mid-sentence, I gave up and instead devoured Stately Pursuits by Katie Fforde. Now before you think that I'm just into chic lit, I went on to read another of Fforde's books--Life Skills--and fell asleep right next to my husband.
It's not the subject matter. It's the presentation.
Three things that make me quit reading--or work "better than sleep medicine" as my husband would say:
1)The description of the world I'm being asked to occupy is confusing and I can't stand up. In fact, I feel brain dead. With Marx it was Dialectic, Hegelian Method, Negation of the Negation etc. With Fforde it was Locks and Windlasses.
2) The author skips all the conflict/drama. Marx, the father of the communist doctrine who stated that "religion is an opiate of the masses" came from a long line of rabbis. In fact, his own father was a rabbi! How did Marx get out of this? What family struggles were there? I want to read this.
3) I don't have enough invested in the character to want to turn the page. Now I'm fascinated by Marx--just as I am by other world theologians (Mohammed, Jesus, Buddha, etc.) so it's hard to turn me off. With most books, however, I only know the character from the description provided. I only care about the character because the author is asking me to. In Fforde's book, the main character is an unmarried woman getting up there in age--and surrounded by people telling her she needs to have children before it's too late. But she doesn't care. She's not afraid of anything, not inhibited by anything. In fact, every scrape she gets into, she easily gets out of---even when she turns up pregnant. It's hard to care about a teflon-coated character. I want my character to feel fear and anger and sadness and longing. Or I think, "So what?"
I haven't given up on Fforde (who is amazing with dialogue, and humorous to boot) nor on Marx. However, please--if you know of a good book on Marx--let me know. We've had enough sleeping medicine.

No comments:

What People Are Saying About My Half of the Sky

My Half of the Sky was the BookSense Pick for August 2006 as well as a Forbes Book Club Pick.

"McBurney-Lin tells a wonderfully entertaining story with the traditional coming-of-age theme (which is experienced universally)...weaving in the cultural challenges of growing up in China's rapidly changing social system."
Mary Warpeha, co-President of the Minnesota Chapter of US-China Friendship Association
March 2010

"The novel ...includes many of the tales and the folk ways of the people living in the rural areas of South China, still followed provincially. The story takes place in current China, but could relate the dilemma of any young woman in rural China through the ages."
Kitty Trescott, National Board of the Midwest Region of US-China Friendship Association. March 2010

"A lot is expected of a young Chinese girl. My Half of the Sky by Jana McBurney-Lin is the story of Li Hui, a young girl who has just achieved marriageable age. She seeks to make the most of herself, but the expectations all around her make it difficult, as her parents seek to use her as pawn to their advantage, she is faced with what she believes to be true love. She must balance career, romance, and family, all to somehow make everyone happy, a tough endeavor indeed. An engaging and entertaining read from beginning to end, "My Half of the Sky" is a poignant tale of the modern Chinese woman, and recommended for community library collections.
--Midwest Book Review November, 2008

“It is a rare women’s novel that sensitively describes the life of a young educated woman in modern-day China in its full complexity, without resorting to unnecessary sentimentalism. Jana’s deep knowledge of the realities of life in China and Singapore makes the reading extra rewarding. In fact, with every new page the novel gets harder to put down and you find yourself gobbling it up before you know it. Finally, the author has given a voice to the Li Hui in all of us, as we struggle for the golden middle between tradition and the modern momentum of our world.”
Isabella Sluzek
Friends of the Museum Book Review 2008

You'll be rooting all the way for Li Hui as she struggles, ahead of the curve, to be her own woman in an emerging, modern China. Jana McBurney-Lin's My half of the Sky is a beautiful, witty, touching debut novel.
Thomas B. Sawyer
Head Writer TV Series "Murder, She Wrote,"
Author - The Sixteenth Man

A complex and mesmerizingly original tale of a young Chinese woman caught between the modern world and the pull of her ancient culture. McBurney-Lin’s intimate portrait of China sparks with insights and is peopled with characters so rich and alive, they seem to breathe on the page. Dazzling and unforgettable.
Caroline Leavitt,
Author - Girls in Trouble

McBurney-Lin's debut novel is a gift. Li Hui is a memorable heroine, a young woman torn between her heart and her culture.Her daunting journey is a trip into China's complicated soul, and a deeply moving exploration of love, honor, duty, and loss." Frank Baldwin, Author - Balling the Jack

My Half of the Sky is a wonderfully-crafted story that was obviously written with a piece of McBurney-Lin's heart. A masterpiece."
Lee Lofland, Author - Howdunit: Police Procedure and Investigation

My Half of the Sky heralds the arrival of a fantastic new storyteller. With artistry and precision, Jana McBurney-Lin's clear-eyed prose takes the reader on a new journey into a past world that speaks to a modern sensibility, a modern world, a modern woman. This is a book to be treasured.
Emily Rapp, Author - The Poster Child

Through vivid descriptions of sights and smells, Jana McBurney-Lin's My Half of the Sky is a haunting, emotional journey of what it means to be an honorable female in modern China. Jill Ferguson, Author - Sometimes Art Can't Save You