The best feeling in the world is closing the cover (electronic or otherwise) on a great read. When I’ve just read a great book, I feel filled with regretful joy. Sometimes I want to go back to the first page and start over. The oddest and most vexing feeling is closing the cover on a book that leaves you thinking, “What the fuck did I just read?”
I’ve had that feeling twice in two days. On Saturday, I finished reading Sebastian Faulks’ A Possible Life. Today, I’m near the end of The Underground by Hamid Ismailov. Both books have got me wondering wtf in two different ways.
A Possible Life is the kind of novel that puzzles me because I know there is something tying the disparate sections and characters together that I’m missing. When I finish a book that I feel I don’t understand, I get irritated with myself more than the book or the author. Why can’t I understand what the story is trying to tell me? What am I not seeing? In the case of A Possible Life, I’m especially annoyed with myself because I’ve read books that are similar (or that I think are similar) that I did understand. I ended up closing the cover on this book feeling like I missed the point.
The Underground is weird. It joins a lot books I’ve read in the past that are so bizarre that I’m left wondering if I really understood everything that happened. A few times, I’m honestly worried about the author’s sanity (Jeff VanderMeer, China Miéville, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Philip K. Dick, etc.). These authors blur the lines between fiction and experiment to the point where I feel like I’m hallucinating. Sometimes this works for me. I love books that play around with genre convention. Other times, though, I just get frustrated.