Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I’m equally familiar with the phenomenon of falling asleep during a movie

I’ve been reading The Man of Your Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld. I grabbed it at the library when I saw it because I loved Prep and I am always excited to find an author I know I like at the library since I don’t have lots of shelf-browsing time these days. And yes, I agree that I’d have better luck if I went to the library with a list of books, or, better still, requested them to be held for me, but BLAH BLAH BLAH. I didn’t.

So anyway, I was enjoying the book quite a lot, despite Sittenfeld’s slightly gimmicky use of the present tense and the time-jumping style of the plot. Each chapter started a chunk of time past the end of the previous chapter, and then would become a sort of flashback to the time that was skipped. I was following it pretty well until the main character, Hannah, was talking to her cousin Fig’s boyfriend in the car while they were on the way to pick up Fig. It was all going well, but then Sittenfeld started referring to things that I could swear had not been explained, like Fig’s and Hannah’s trip to L.A., or Hannah’s dinner with her father. It seemed to fit in with the flashback-style of the book; I assumed she was planning to reveal things later. Nevertheless, I was feeling kind of grumpy about it, because it was just too jumpy. I mean, come on, Sittenfeld. Get it together.

And then, as I was approaching the end of the story, I realized that I had inadvertently skipped some of the book. Sort of a lot, actually. It turned out to be pages 48-160. I just didn’t read them. So, yeah. The plot seemed a bit jumpy. It was a lot like falling asleep in the middle of a movie, the key difference being that a movie keeps going without you, so it makes sense that you would miss a chunk. This… was different.

How did this happen? Well first of all, I usually don’t use bookmarks, I just look at the page number and try to remember it, and then flip through until I find my spot. Second of all, I can’t remember characters’ names. At least for the most part. I remembered Fig’s name, because it’s Fig. And when I “fell asleep”, Hannah was talking to Fig’s boyfriend about Fig; when I “woke up,” Hannah was talking to her OWN boyfriend about Fig. Fig’s boyfriend was named Henry, Hannah’s boyfriend was named Mike. Both fairly generic. And a particularly salient point is that Hannah had a crush on Henry, so when we skipped ahead, I just thought that Sittenfeld was planning to explain later how Hannah ended up with Henry, whose name I thought was Mike.

Does any of that make sense? It doesn’t really matter, because it’s not really an excuse, seeing as I read about 100 pages of a book without realizing that I had completely skipped the middle third of the story. Instead, I blamed the author for writing something so incoherent. I don’t really know what this says about me, but I will say that when I went back and read it in order, the plot made a whole lot more sense.

Sittenfeld, you have my apologies.


Jessica said...

I'm always frustratedly trying to find my place in books. I use bookmarks, but the two-year-old likes to pull them out. I try to hide my books or put them up high, but usually end up forgetting.

Holly said...

That is hilarious! I have read the book, I promise, it's pretty good. ;) I always fall asleep in the middle of movies, short attention span I guess. Then I wake up and make Garrett explain everything to me because obviously nothing makes sense. He *loves* watching movies with me, I assure you.

Swistle said...

"It turned out to be pages 48-160." HA HA HA!!

Rah said...

Ahem, that's what we call a "slight omission." But it does say something about the coherence of the text, that you didn't notice it seeming a little off-kilter when you picked it up again.

Krizzzz said...

If it makes you feel any better, I'm prepared to argue that if you can skip 112 pages of a book and not realize it until the end, that's a flaw in the book and not your reading. ;-)

(I can also show you the several copies of several different books that Scott has bought, loved, devoured, praised...and subsequently realized he already owns. One such incident happened just weeks ago: there we were, just before bedtime, curled up reading, and suddenly he SLAMS the book shut, growls something irritable, snorts sheepishly, and stuffs the pillow over his face.)