Guantanamo Boy was one of those can’t put down books, the kind that makes reading a pleasure, despite its grim and disturbing content. The downside of a book like that is finding something as a follow-up. What can I start reading next that can compare?
Unfortunately, out of all of the possibilities available – shelves full of candidates – the two books I’ve started aren’t inspiring me.
Lee Krasner: a biography is slow going at the moment. I’ve read a few art biographies over the past year. Most of the others I enjoyed and I gained an insight into the artists and their work. With Krasner I’m feel I’m mainly reading list after list of names of her fellow artists, people I’ve mostly never heard of. I’m almost a quarter of the way through and apart from the Introduction I’m finding it hard going. The intro seemed to show promise of some good reading ahead, but so far the promise is unfulfilled.
The other book I started just before Guantanamo Boy. It’s a book of essays by Zadie Smith: Changing My Mind. And like the Krasner biography I’ve been finding it hard going. It isn’t helpful that the first section of essays is made up of the kind of literary studies that I did for assignments in University. While I enjoyed writing them 20 years ago (I loved the mental workout after more than a decade of menial office work –I entered Uni as a 30 year old “mature-age” student), I don’t find them very interesting when I’m not familiar with the books they are examining; books that I’m not likely to read myself.
Maybe I should ask myself “why Zadie Smith?” Her book White Teeth is the only book I’ve abandoned during my reading campaign started a few years ago. I tried and tried to stick with it but I eventually ran out of steam and put it aside. This book of essays could have seen me following that same path – but I want to stick with it until I break through to the next section where Smith writes about the process of writing. That will be the real test for this book: when she writes about topics that DO interest me.
So why on earth would I give so much time to an author I’ve clearly struggled to read in the past? There is a simple reason. I like Zadie Smith and I want to like her work. I’ve heard her interviewed a few times and she speaks so well with intelligence, humour and insight. She makes her work seem appealing and I want to discover the books she leads me to expect.