Saturday, March 21, 2009

good but slow

The history in this book was interesting and valuable but I found it hard to stay with - it a little didactic.

My main problem with the book was that it seemed speculative rather than a carefully researched account. The background history seemed solid, but clearly there were many liberties taken in describing Lev's life - just made up details no one could possibly have remembered. It seemed a kind of Truman Capote style fictionalized "truth," without admitting as much.

For example, early the book the author describes visiting a small apartment with "12 cats." Did he count them? A small apartment with 12 cats would have been unbearably smelly. I think he just made that detail up.

So it made me wonder what else he was making up. The story of Lev's mother -- which he first identified as speculative, but then slipped in as fact, really annoyed me. The author needed something colorful, so he fabricated a colorful figure, drawing stories he heard, but I began to even wonder about the stories.

I didn't find Lev all that fascinating. He looked like a spoiled self-satisfed man, a bit too pleased with himself. I could not relate to him.

The real mystery is why we are reading this book instead of Lev's. If it was that great, we should go to the source. I didn't understand what the author was adding (apart from the speculations which I did not believe).

When the author writes something like "Lev glanced around nervously" was he paraphrasing what Lev wrote or just doing the Capote thing? The whole book is that kind of material.

I think the history is very valuable in this book. I probably would have preferred a straight history without the hindrance of Lev. And I never understood why a European Jew would want to be an "Orientalist," imagining himself a Muslim.

No comments:

Post a Comment