Saturday, April 9, 2011

Permission to Change (Seasons)

My apologies for the erratic weather we've had so far this year. I recently realized that it's all my fault.

See, in December a friend gave me a novel called Snow by Turkish author Orhan Pamuk. As I read it in fits and starts, it took me a really really long time to finish. But I'm finally done! And so now the snow can stop and spring can commence in earnest.

You're welcome.

As for why it took me so long to finish this book, well, that's all me I suppose. I kept flipping back to the front cover to verify that the seal on the front proclaiming, "Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature!" was still there and not just something I dreamed.

Later, I'd turn the book over and peruse the blurbs again. "One of the best books of the year" according to just about everyone from The New York Times Book Review to The Economist. Rave reviews from truly impressive people.

Repeatedly I read the jacket copy. "Slyly comic." Also, "humor," "wicked grin," etc.

I was excited to read this fabulous book, which came so highly recommended and is set in Turkey. (My in-laws lived in Turkey for years and my husband was actually born there; they returned to the states when his sister was ready for elementary school.)

But I just didn't get it. I didn't engage with the story, I didn't connect with the characters, and I felt frustrated by the pace. (The first day seemed to me like it must have been at least 48 hours long. Is Ka really in his late 30's as it appears? If so, how come the 17+ year age difference between close sisters Ipek and Kadife is never discussed?) I utterly missed the humor.

Obviously, this is all on me since apparently everyone else who's read Snow loved it. But I spent the first 200 pages trying to figure out why the author gave most of the unrelated main characters the same last name (Bey). Then I figured it must be a subtle comment on the provincial nature of Turkish society (the cerebral humor I'd been missing?). By page 300 I'd realized that "Bey" must be a sort of honorific (and it is). Some of my confusion might indeed have been cultural. I certainly feel like an uncultured ignoramus for my utter failure to appreciate this highly acclaimed novel.

But I finished it, and now it's spring!

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