DNF not quite halfway through. In the beginning I was impressed by the fine line this book walks between annoyance and charm. The word I thought of to best describe it was “rambunctious.” Then I thought, “Will this ‘rambunction’ get old?” And it basically did. Or maybe I’m just not in the mood for satire of life 15+ years ago when the present is even crazier. Like, we’re living a satire right now. I will say I enjoyed the physicality that Shteyngart revels in; that’s rare. On the other hand, I could do without the meta quality, references to an author with a name like Shteyngart’s who published a novel that sounds like his debut novel.
I’ve recently made a new rule for myself to avoid purchasing or attempting to read a book by a new (to me) author if I’ve already purchased but not read another work by the same author. Pessl has a new book coming out this year, but I own both Special Topics in Calamity Physics and Night Film and had not read either. I decided to read Night Film first, as I remembered being intrigued by its synopsis and the first several pages I read.
I understood it to be literary fiction, but 50 pages in, it felt more like typical genre fiction–not that I never read genre fiction–specifically, noir, which I typically dislike. The protagonist felt like a cross between Sam Spade and Mikael Blomqvist: a disgraced journalist who gets caught up in a mystery involving a reclusive film director. I think I need to stop being seduced by books about filmmakers; this is the second I DNF.
The prose got on my nerves fast, especially the overuse of italics. I wondered if perhaps this book intended to do what Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island does, which is exaggerate genre tropes and style for the purpose of representing a character’s point of view. After skimming some reviews, it didn’t seem so, and i wasn’t willing to continue reading to find out.
I’m putting this one aside and may not come back to it. Much praise has been lavished on it, but it has too little narrative thrust for me, and I find that its charm can be overbearing to the point of preciousness.
This book and I turned out not to be a good match, and I made the executive decision to stop reading (at 26%) today. Because there’s so much else to read, not to mention I’m a slow reader, and wasting my time reading something I don’t enjoy is dumb. My only regret is that I bought the book, so it feels like I am wasting money.
I read the sample before purchasing and was mostly intrigued by a protagonist’s experiment watching the same film a crazy amount of times in a few days. I love film, and the idea of reading about (fictional) female filmmakers was exciting. But at a quarter of the way in, with three main characters introduced, I couldn’t get a feel for what the book was about, its narrative thrust. I also didn’t care enough about the characters to keep going, and the prose could feel like cliches wrapped in pretentious prose.
DNFing is painful, but it’s time to move on!