Not finishing a book is a huge pet peeve of mine. Often I’ll push through and finish reading it, even if it’s terrible. In this case, though, I decided to cut myself some slack. Since I decided not to finish these two underwhelming reads, I’ve had time to polish off 4-5 good books! There are millions of books in the world and precious little time to read them, so don’t do what I do and force yourself to waste time on the ones that just aren’t worth it!
Book #1: Slash by Slash and Anthony Bozza
This book has been a thorn in my side for over a year now. I included it on my list of “30 Books I want to read in 2014” way back in January. I’ve picked it up a couple of times since then, but I really just can’t stand it. Slash, the infamous guitarist from Guns ‘n’ Roses, is a flat-out terrible person. The scene that led me to condemn the book appeared relatively early on, when Slash and his bandmate Axl are drunk at a party and take turns having sex with the same girl. And no, I don’t mean a three way. I can’t think of any situation where that should happen, except on the set of a porno.
I guess I’m not surprised that it became a New York Times bestseller. It’s vicarious in the same way that The Wolf of Wall Street is. I guess a lot of people dream of becoming assholes, and it’s somehow pleasurable for them to read about wealthy idiots wrecking havoc wherever they go? At any rate, it’s not a narrative I can get behind, and the writing is terrible and inconsistent on top of everything else.
Book #2: In the sea there are crocodiles by Fabio Geda
In the sea there are crocodiles couldn’t be more different from Slash. It’s a nonfiction Young Adult book about a 10-year-old refugee from Afghanistan named Enaiatollah Akbari (Enait for short). It was one of the few books on the IBBY 2014 Honour List that I took the time to read — but I only got about 60 pages in because I couldn’t stand it. Just as Slash is about an asshole running around doing destructive things, In the sea there are crocodiles is the polar opposite, an unbearably cozy book featuring a relatively innocent kid with some remarkably bad luck. I commend author Fabio Geda for his good intentions; i.e., bringing to light a story about a kid growing up in horrible conditions. It’s a work of altruism, really. The problem is that Geda seems hyperaware of his own heroism, and unnecessarily romanticizes the concept of childhood. Furthermore, although Enaiatollah is supposed to be (and is!) a sympathetic protagonist, he has an alarmingly narrow way of categorizing his enemies. The book is also full of “truisms” and cutesy language. Here are a few quotes to illustrate what I mean.
Mother’s last words: An alarmingly simplistic view of work and honesty in a region of the world where skepticism is a protective mindset.
[Don’t ever] cheat or steal. What’s yours belongs to you, what isn’t doesn’t. You can earn the money you need by working, even if the work is hard. (p. 4)
Romanticization and deliberate simplification of the small town in Afghanistan where Enait is from:
I’d never have chosen to leave Nava. My village was a good place. It’s wasn’t technologically advanced, there was no electricity. For light, we used oil lamps. But there were apples. (p. 19)
Idealized recounting of parents picking kids up from school, which is not necessarily an unequivocally wonderful thing:
I watch the children coming out into the playground when the bell rings, and lining up just inside the gates, and getting up on tiptoe to peer into the crowd of adults, trying to see their parents… Then all the questions start — how was their day, what homework do they have, how was the swimming lesson — and the mothers doing up the zips of their children’s jackets to protect them from the cold and pulling their hats down over their foreheads and ears. (p. 41-42)
Perhaps the book improved as the story progressed, but I found several aspects of it distasteful and didn’t care to take the time to find out. I’m kind of perversely pleased that I intensely disliked this pair of books, which couldn’t be more different from one another as it reassures me that I’m looking at more than just the content. I would say that both of them are profoundly inauthentic and self-aggrandizing, despite the wildly different subject matter.
There you have it! Two books that I have started and deliberately abandoned. I am, however, determined to finish For Whom the Bell Tolls, which I love so much that I have spread it out over several months.
Photos by GvL.