Most weeks, I look at my television and am like, “Why would anyone ever want to watch that?” But about once every three months, I get into a phase where all I want to do is watch TV. During these periods, I can’t imagine reading. I mean, I look at the book in my hands, and I’m just not interested.
That phase came and went during August (I mostly watched BoJack Horseman and old episodes of How I Met Your Mother) while I was supposed to be reading Boleslaw Prus’ The Doll.
It wasn’t any problem with the book. If it had been, I would’ve just abandoned it. Unlike most people I meet, I have zero trouble abandoning a novel halfway or even 3/4ths of the way through. I think the latest I’ve ever abandoned a novel was The Three Musketeers. I was much closer to the end than to the beginning of that rather weighty book, but I realized that there was just nothing there.
This book did not have that problem. It is true, though, that it is a bit uneven. The book has three main protagonists who have vastly different amounts of pagetime. There’s Wokulski, the businessman / romantic hero. There’s his love, the aristocratic and slightly shallow Isabela. And there’s his longtime clerk, Rzecky. The first two are in third person, while Rzecky’s sections are told in first person (his chapters are always called The Journal of an Old Clerk). And his stuff is so tedious.
He just has no story. He’s an old guy with a poodle who lives above the store that he manages. There is nothing else to him. I mean, he’s wistful for the days of Napoleon. He wishes that Wokulski would stop being so lovesick. But because he seems to have zero ambitions for himself, his chapters end up feeling rather inert.
Still, I’m glad that I read this book, and I will have more thoughts on it once I am finished (right now I’m racing to finish it before heading off to Burning Man, because I’m fairly sure that I’m not gonna do any reading once I’m there).