Out of Gas

My reading engines have spluttered to a halt, and I blame you, Amy Tan.

Well, no, that’s unfair. I made my way through The Hippopotamus by Stephen Fry, which was much filthier than the back cover copy suggests, and a quite solid mystery novel in its own right. (I was disappointed when the main character was not, in fact, a hippopotamus, as the cover art of my edition suggests.) I read Just a Couple of Days by Tony Vigorito, who taught two sociology courses I took at UT, which was more neo-hippy manifesto than novel. Deeper metaphors sailed right over my head in White Noise. I even read the book within the book Erasure by Percival Everett, so I would feel perfectly justified in counting that one twice. That’s five books in two months… and I am terribly behind. And it’s The Joy Luck Club’s fault.

Well, no, that’s unfair. Her prose is solid and her stories are interesting. I just… can’t bring myself to care. Each chapter stands well enough in isolation to the rest that they read like themed short stories. This isn’t a bad thing, but it isn’t my cup of tea (orange pekoe ceylon, just shy of oversteeped, with a healthy spoonful of Equal). But I keep finding myself needing the little cast of characters provided. I feel like I need to start a database of characters and anecdotes and relationships and what this person said about that person in the present so I can see how that opinion relates to that person’s characterization in the past, and oh it just makes my head hurt.

Right now I’m about halfway through the book and I still feel like I have no idea who any of the characters are, or how they are distinguished from each other beside what Tan tells us directly through narration. I can’t keep them straight because they all feel like the same character: Chinese-American struggling with balancing both sides of their culture, Chinese women struggling to adapt and facing adversity in childhood.

I might put this one down. There is absolutely no force driving me to continue reading other than an obsession with completionism.