The Leftovers and The Final Solution: 2 Versions Of TMI

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Sometimes when I “respond” to a novel (I try not to give book “reviews”), the entry proves to be really more about me than the book. Such may very well be the case here again with the two books:  The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta  and The Final Solution by Michael Chabon.

Due to the pressure of a looming deadline for my reading course (just over six months left ! ), I am extremely impatient when it comes to novels. I have almost abandoned them completely, but from time to time I give one a try, for I do so crave a break from all the non-fiction I’ve been perusing, some of it quite dense.  Nevertheless, more often than not, I find my time spent on novels wasted.

Here’s where we come to the “really more about me” part… Many people, perhaps the majority of folks, doubtlessly love books which really get into the minutiae of day-to-day life– its job frustrations, its relationship-ups-and-downs, its family insanities.  However, I loathe such stuff.  I’ve had enough of day-to-day life just livin’ it day to day. I don’t want in the least to read in excruciating detail of the bad taste in music some character’s sister has, or about how someone’s mother can or cannot follow the simple and predictable plots of most television shows, and I sure don’t care about the neighbor’s irritating dog or the co-worker who smacks his lips when he eats.

So, when I found that the first several-score pages comprising the beginning of The Left-Overs were chopful of just such quotidian trivia, I simply set the book down and reached for something else. Perhaps I was too quick to judge. Perhaps, one day, when I have the luxury of exercising more patience with books of unknown worth, I’ll give it another go. But for now, I come away from The Left-Overs considering it something less than a full meal.

Now, I know Michael Chabon is one of today’s best writers, but I still found his book The Final Solution overwritten. Chabon becomes carried away with his own descriptions and metaphors, causing the story to be bloated and padded where it should be lean and sharp. Where the rhythm of the story (if it could be said to HAVE a rhythm) could benefit from an express shuttle from here to there, we instead are treated to the scenic route.  Such side-tracking sucks the air right out of any building tension or suspense. This is especially unforgivable in an (undeclared) Sherlock Holmes mystery.

Speaking of Sherlock, though Chabon never names the main character as such, it is obviously meant to be him– although in Chabon’s version, the famous detective is quite old and is even more curmudgeony and misanthropic than the younger version bestowed upon humanity by Doyle over a century ago.

When the narrative ground-down through several gears to give us the story from the perspective of the parrot (!), the only mystery left was why I kept reading for even the few more pages that I did.

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