The other day I read Marquez’ Of Love and Other Demons for a book club discussion, which made me think about how I’ve actually read quite a lot of Marquez.* And I’ve liked almost everything of his that I’ve read (well, except for Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor, which is a book that even Marquez thinks is fairly unspectacular). But I haven’t really loved any of it. Like, you’ll rarely hear me mention Marquez on this blog. And I’d never think to cite him as an influence. In truth, I rarely think about his work.
That’s not a problem with him, of course. And it’s not a problem with me, either. He just exists in that liminal place where you put great and very entertaining authors who are, nonetheless, somehow not exactly the right thing for you. I have alot of authors like this (as does everyone). What’s strange is that I frequently read alot of books by these authors. I think that if I really like one work by an author, then I am liable to be disappointed by their lesser work (for instance, I love George Eliot’s Middlemarch and Mill On The Floss, but after striking out with Daniel Deronda, I’ve been disinclined to read anything else by her). And if I don’t like an author’s work, then of course I’m not going to read anything else by them. But if I sort-of love it, then I’ll keep reading more and more of their stuff, because I know it’ll be good and I know it won’t disappoint me and I know there’s a chance that I’ll really love the next one.
Authors that fall into this category for me are:
- Vladimir Nabokov – I’ve read nine of his works. I even read Ada! And almost all of them were excellent. But I don’t love him. Again, who can say why? Maybe it’s because there’s a coldness to his work that I don’t necessarily respond to. Of the novels, I’d say that the one I liked best was Lolita. It’s one of the few books that I am someday going to reread. I read it when I was just out of college, and I suspect that if I reread, I’d like it even more.
- J.M. Coetzee – I’ve read five of his novels. All of them were powerful and fantastic and alienating experiences. And all of those experiences were sterile. They didn’t inspire me or make me want to go out and read more of his work. They just sort of sat there at the bottom of my mind.
*One Hundred Years of Solitude; The General In His Labyrinth; No One Comes For The Colonel; A Chronicle of a Death Foretold; News of a Kidnapping; Clandestine in Chile; Story of A Shipwrecked Sailor; Of Love and Other Demons; and a number of his short stories. But who’s keeping track, right?