Sunday, March 27, 2011

A House and a Home

I read these two the wrong way.

Great House: A NovelNicole Krauss's Great House is a novel which deserves its acclaim. The interwoven plots on the surface center around the possessors of a fairly awesome-sounding desk. Deeper, they center around parent-child expectations and relations, while the consequences of oppression and racism orbit the main action. (Also, I now feel bad about the extremely overburdened but much loved roll top desk I received from my parents when they were downsizing their house. I really ought to do some serious sorting and culling.) Anyway, although I was too-often reminded of how much more I liked the puzzle box built by David Mitchell in Cloud Atlas, I really just wanted to settle down with Great House and devour it whole. Instead I dipped into it and out again, sometimes wrangling a long session, more often just a few pages.

At Home: A Short History of Private LifeBill Bryson's At Home: A Short History of Private Life, on the other hand, is just the sort of cultural anthropology/historical trivia that's fun to pick up and peruse and come back to later, and instead I powered through the whole thing. It really did me a disservice as a reader, and I should have known better. In addition to bringing back memories of my Anthro 101 research paper about the use of space in the double rooms in my dorm (I concluded, with no bias at all, that my roomie and I were not destined for a lifetime of friendship), Bryson's latest is a charming and interesting treasure box in its own right. Especially when handled correctly, there are lots of "wow, I'd never have guessed that about 'sleep tight'!" and "Got it: India cotton = Indian-derived words for fabric and fashion" moments to tickle your mental funny bone.

So there you have it - two good reads, which can be made better or (if ye heed not my warning) worse by your approach to reading them.

1 comment:

  1. And now Nicole Krauss knows about your desk!