Friday, January 13, 2012

Getting the bum's rush

I realised yesterday that we are almost two weeks through the year and I have only managed to read two books. Eeek!  If I have any hope of surpassing last year's amount of books read in a year - 87 - than I better crack on.

Which is why I told my boyfriend "sorry, can't do housework today Honey or pack for moving house in two weeks time, I have to read."  He's currently not speaking to me (which actually isn't a bad thing: no interruptions of my reading!).

So what was book number two this year? The Girls Guide to Homelessness by Brianna Karp - she's a very smart, articulate woman that finds herself living in a trailer on a Walmart parking lot after losing her job in the recession.  It shows another side to homelessness - that anyone is vulnerable (I'm sure I read somewhere most people are 2 lost paychecks away from homelessness): it is not just those with alcohol or drug addictions or mental health issues that are forced to live on the streets.  I didn't always agree with her choices (eg: using backpayment of unemployment benefits to fly her internet love out from Scotland to the US for a month instead of putting it towards bond/rent on an apartment/house) but it was eye opening, thought provoking and strangely, also very entertaining. 

I'm already 42% (thank you Kindle) through book number 3:  You Deserve Nothing By Alexander Maksik.  This novel has one the least interesting/inspiring cover designs I have seen and yep, I totally judged the book by it.  I only became interested in the novel when the scandal broke, and as mentioned before, I love me a good literary scandal.

You Deserve Nothing is about a teacher who works at a school in Paris for westerners and is kind of a “Dead Poets Society” style inspiration to his students.  He just happens to be having an affair with one of his female pupils who gets pregnant to him and eventually has an abortion after their relationship is revealed.  

As it turns out, the “fictional story” is more or less autobiographical and the author was the supposedly fictional teacher.  His former students have said parts of the story happened almost identically to what happened in the real world and the girl he was “romancing” is said to be extremely upset about the affair being rehashed – especially to the critical acclaim the book first received prior to the scandal. 

All this makes the way Maksik has written the book extremely interesting.  It's in three voices: that of the teacher Will Silver, Gilad one of his male students who is enamoured in a completely asexual way with him and Marie, the girl he is having the affair with.  Writing from her perspective, putting thoughts and words into her mouth... well I dunno, is that brave or stupid or naive or incredibly hurtful?

So what did I think so far...well knowing that he is writing about himself makes some of the glowing descriptions of the teacher (charming, sexy, brilliant, attractive, inspirational, life get my drift) a bit, well wanky to be honest.  And the fact he claims this as fiction when his former students say it is more or less verbatim what happened makes him look cowardly and weak. Check out this article about the whole sorry, sordid mess.

All in all it smacks a little of James Frey doesn't it - just in reverse.  At least Mr Frey was honest enough in the end to admit he was wrong.  Mr Maksik on the other hand, has remained deathly quiet and is clearly riding out the storm.  As a random aside he is the first author I have come across that has an invite only Twitter account.  

If it makes me a hypocrite for continuing to read this book knowing the above, so be it.  There's no denying Alexander Maksik is a skilled writer and I'm interested to see how he paints himself as the affair progresses. 

I'll keep you posted.



cessie said...

I should read read read as well, that's why I decided this weekend (as I don't have any plans anyway and my BF is abroad) to be a reading weekend :). Ok, I'm reading blogs now, does that count ;)
My attention was caught by your first book! This sounds so good. In a way it reminds me of Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. So I absolutely want to read this one. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Cool, you're still going! I think my blog is dead, inspiration has gone. Hope you're well. Julian.

Anonymous said...

What interesting books you read!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kelly,
I lost your email address when I formatted my laptop recently.

I have Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close for your Kindle if you'd like a copy. I think you'd enjoy it. It quite a different book, it took me a few chapters to get into but was well worth persevering with.
If you'd like it, send me a quick email so I have your address again.

Hope all is going well with you :o)

Vicki, aka Datoofairy.