It's not often that I have ambivalent feelings about a book. I either love books or I hate them. For example, the fourth book I've read since completing my dissertation, The Alchemist. Hated it. I finished it over a month ago, so I don't really remember why I hated it, but I recall that I only finished it because it was so short. It's supposed to have some deep meaning - profound, if you will. Perhaps I'm not deep enough to read into that. Whatever. Didn't like it. At all.
Clearly, not so ambivalent. That's why I was surprised that I was so ambivalent about Jane Smiley's Ten Days in the Hills. Normally I LOVE Jane Smiley. Moo U. and Ten Thousand Acres, to name a couple. I even went to a book reading about Ten Days in the Hills. The book reading was great. The book was long. 530 pages long. So, I'm surprised that I couldn't find something that I loved or hated about it. It was mostly just kind of boring. It's about a group of people who spend 10 days in the Hollywood Hills just after the Iraq War began. Some are family, some are old friends. Some are anti-war, some are really conservative.
My unfeeling feeling about this book makes me think that, perhaps, I'm not a very perceptive reader. I do remember that the book is supposed to be a modern-day take on some classic book (Decameron, I just checked). I'm a fairly well-read person, but I have no clue how this relates to Decameron. I have to admit that I've never even heard of Decameron.
A reviewer had this to say: "Smiley delivers a delightful, subtly observant sendup of Tinseltown folly, yet she treats her characters, their concern with compelling surfaces and their perpetual quest to capture reality through artifice, with warmth and seriousness. In their shallowness, she finds a kind of profundity." I couldn't have said it better. In fact, I wasn't sure how to say it at all.
Maybe my ambivalence lies in my ignorance. Maybe now I'll check out that Decameron book.
If I had to summarize my experience with the two books:
The Alchemist: Bleck.
Ten Days in the Hills: Eh.