Around New Years, one of the things I mentioned as a structure for my continued development was a way of tracking the books I read during this year. So far I’ve finished two, which means if I don’t follow through sometime soon, I’m in danger of losing all consciousness of what I’ve read. So without further ado, here are my thoughts on the two books I’ve read so far this year:
10.01 – Wicked by Gregory Maguire. Borrowed from a friend, who said “it’s a good book, except I got bored with it about six chapters in.” Hmm. Not the best endorsement. I quite enjoyed it, though it was a tad self-indulgent at times. The “good vs. evil” theme was a bit overdone, and I found myself thinking quite frequently of the second Matrix movie, which spent way too much time masturbating philosophizing. But I loved the way Maguire bridged all the gaps and gave us a character we feel sympathetic toward. I also like authors who are as obsessed with sex as I am, which clearly Maguire is.
10.02 – The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. WARNING! MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD! AND BY MASSIVE SPOILERS, I MEAN IF YOU HAVE ANY INTEREST IN READING THIS BOOK, THEN DON’T READ THE REST OF THIS POST, AS IT WILL COMPLETELY RUIN YOUR LIFE.
So, I was a bit skeptical going into this, because most of it takes place in Afghanistan, a country whose history I know nothing about. A year or two ago I tried reading Anil’s Ghost because a friend wants to make the movie and I thought, hey, I should write the script, but I got bored about 20 pages in and gave up. Mostly because I know nothing about Sri Lanka, and didn’t find myself relating to the narrator.
I thought this might be a similar experience, but I pressed through, and by the time Assef threatened Amir and Hassan with “I’m a very patient person. This doesn’t end today, believe me,” I was willing to stick it out for the payoff.
After the rape scene, my wife asked me, “Wasn’t that the hardest thing you’ve ever read?” Actually, it wasn’t. Sohrab’s suicide attempt was much harder for me, although even that wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever read. The hardest thing I’ve ever read was when little Barty Lampion went to the surgeon to have his eyes removed in From the Corner of His Eye by Dean Koontz. About half an hour before getting to that part, I lamented to my brother, “It’s interesting, but I’m having trouble figuring out what the point is.” Then, sitting on an airplane, reading that passage, I started bawling. My brother turned to me with a smirk: “I guess he got to the point?”
Anyway, something I’ve started to wonder is the extent to which tragedies these days are actually tragedies. Hamlet, for example, has a pretty tragic ending. Unless you’re fond of poison and patricide, you probably won’t argue. But I remember watching Monster’s Ball eight-ish years ago amid all the hype of how tragic it was, and thought: “But it has an uplifting ending! That’s not a tragedy at all!” I mean sure, the kid dies, but this dude’s racism took a pretty sharp turn in a different direction, which is a pretty big deal in my book.
Similarly, I went into The Kite Runner thinking it would be monstrously depressing. And especially when Amir gets married and gets published, roughly 160-184 pages into a 371 page book, I knew it would be a tragedy. Because anything that has a happy ending doesn’t have a happy middle. Things with happy endings are tense and/or suspenseful in the middle, which this clearly wasn’t.
But then again, it all turned out in the end. Sure, Hassan gets shot by the Taliban and Sohrab tries to kill himself, but they manage to save Sohrab’s life, and then they bring him to America and then there’s this glimmer of hope in the final paragraphs. Oh, and let’s not forget Assef getting his due. Yes, the tone is a lot more sombre than, say, a James Bond story, but geez, does that make it a tragedy?
Anyway, I did notice how incredibly sound the structure was, for someone’s first novel. Don’t know if Hosseini had a really good editor or had just done a really good job of mastering his craft, but the ups and downs came in all the right places, and I can totally see how this would make an excellent movie, because the structure is already basically in 3 acts.
Some time down the line I will watch the film, and I very much look forward to it. But in the mean time, Dean Koontz will have the honor of being only the third author whose books I’ve read more than two of, as I’ve started Forever Odd.