Monday, May 2, 2011

Call Me by Your Name - Andre Aciman

I finished this novel either the day before yesterday or the day before that. I am not sure which at this point. My memory and sense of time has been mushy for the last few days, having worked far too much and also feeling a bit listless, the two combining to make me useless for much of anything, even the seemingly simple task of remembering which day it was I did a task recently, such as that of finishing a novel.

I plowed through the first half of this book in a day or so, into it and into what the story seemed to hold. It was also recommended by a friend I like and so I was eager to finish the book as quickly as possible so that I would be able to talk to this person about this book the next time I saw them, so that we could engage in a conversation, the text a pretext.

I soon though tired of the book, found it less charming, found certain things about it slightly cloying. The sentimentalism of the book and its desire to show off the writer's erudition both began to really annoy me. It concerns a brief summer fling between a 17 year old boy and a grad student that is staying at his family's house for the summer to work on his book. The writing itself tries very hard, sometimes succeeding, other times the effort too visible and it not succeeding. For example, this sentence, which the first half off really knocked my socks off with a really poetic analogy and which the second half of ruined by pursuing another analogy, its cloyingness making the first one seem less magical:

How wonderful to feel his hands all over me under the sheets, as if part of us, like an advance scouting party, had already arrived at intimacy, while the rest of us, exposed outside the sheets, was still struggling with niceties, like latecomers stamping their feet in the cold while everyone else is warming hands inside a crowded nightclub. (132)

The period should be placed after niceties and you would have a really beautiful sentence. Instead, the writer doesn't know when to quit, when to cut. It's a frequent problem in the book that really started to dampen my enjoyment of it. Aciman is a talented writer, no doubt, but the book lacks a really strong rhythm, lacks a natural quality. The text is too labored; it doesn't sing.

I was hoping for something else. It's an all right novel, not great, and life is so short, the books I read so few considering how many are out there, that I really cannot be reading anything other than great books. There is a benefit to books that one doesn't love though, that one finds flawed; they allow one to see the missteps to avoid, the things that you find annoying about a text, and the things that work for you with a text.

I could say more, should, but there's that general listless feeling I was mentioning earlier. I am listening to the Duke Ellington station on Pandora. Right now, the beautiful "Take the A Train" is playing. Osama bin Laden is dead. We are now in the month of May.

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