READ, READ, READ! That’s my motto and I enjoy every syllable of it. My whole life it has been such a special pleasure to open a book with anticipation and to find myself drawn into the story, the characters, the writingm from the very first page.
Some books take a little longer to capture my attention. For example, I’ve noticed that books by US authors often try to reach out with maximum impact from the first sentence, as if our short American attention span must be grabbed by the throat and yanked into the story immediately or all will be lost. Of course, I am excited when that opening sentence is something so cool that I just know I’m going to love the book, but I’ve found that novels written in other countries often take a slower approach, building interest more gradually with greater emphasis on character development, setting, or backstory. For me, either approach can be appealing as long as the writing itself is good. It’s similar to how I love Hollywood films and independent foreign films with subtitles equally, though differently, if the stories are exciting, thought-provoking, and engaging. Recently, though, I found myself setting aside a book I had anticipated enjoying because there were so many typos and other editing errors that they constantly distracted me. I couldn’t immerse myself in the tale. I felt, “Why should I care about this story when the author and publishers clearly did not care enough about me, the reader, to present the very best product they could?”
What have you noticed about approaches to fiction in other countries as compared to here in the US? How do you feel about poorly edited books? I’d love to hear your comments—
Here are a couple of my recent finds since the last issue of FEAST was published, both are written by European writers. I hope you enjoy them:
The Solitude of Prime Numbers, Paolo Giordano. Viking translated edition 2009. An international best seller, this book won the Premio Strega. Its author is the youngest-ever winner of Italy’s prestigious literary award, and his debut novel has been translated into more than 30 languages worldwide. Giordano’s use of prime numbers as a metaphor for two lonely young misfits—Alice and Mattia—who each suffered traumatic childhood events that forever changed their lives, is brilliant. One of my favorite parts is the author’s discussion of the rare occurrence of two prime numbers, so-called twin primes, which occur “close to each other, almost neighbors, but between them there is always an even number that prevents them from truly touching . . . .” This is the story of two such lonely figures who long to be close, who tremble at the possibility, but who do not know how to span the distance. A beautifully conceived meditation on the weight we all carry forward from our childhoods, the efforts of even the most solitary to seek connection and love. This book transcends borders.